Today Travel Daily goes Face-to-Face with Benito C Bengzon Jr, Assistant Secretary at Philippine Tourism…
Q) What response have you seen the ‘More Fun in the Philippines’ campaign?
The response to the new campaign has been phenomenal. As per statistics, tourist arrivals have increased post the campaign which is a good indication. We are growing at an average of around 10% for the first eight months of 2012. This is in the right direction as we intensifying our global promotions.
When we launched the campaign, we wanted to make it a people’s campaign which is inclusive. This opened up avenues for different stake holder to come up with their own definitions of fun in the Philippines. Reminiscing the initial days, when we launched the campaign, we had just four or five versions. This has grown tremendously where now we have around 50,000 versions submitted by various Filipinos and expats. The best have been chosen which is used in our advertising campaigns.
Q) What developments can we expect for 2013?
We would like to focus on improving connectivity to the country. We are of the opinion that tourism is built with good air connectivity. We are working on strengthening this aspect along with targeting to have more flights and bigger aircraft. This will be focused on not just the main destinations like Manila and Cebu but also secondary destinations such as Boracay. Secondly, airport infrastructure has also been worked upon by the department of transportation. We have also started to work on road connectivity. Finally, to cater to growing tourism number, we are encouraging more investments in hotels, resorts, spas in selective destinations.
Q) What will be your key focus markets?
As per recent figures for the first eight month from January-August 2012, the destination received almost 2.9 million tourists. To further strengthen our tourism numbers, we will continue to enhance our presence in our key markets such as Korea, US, Japan and Southeast Asia. This will also include high-yield markets such as the Middle East, India and Russia.
Q) Will you be focusing on leisure more than business?
Yes. We have identified key tourism products such as adventure, history and culture, art, shopping, leisure, entertainment, diving and MICE. The incentive segment within MICE would be our target as we have a lot to offer as a destination.
Q) Is the Philippines considering easing the visa process to boost tourism?
We are now starting to relax visa requirements. For India especially, we have worked out an agreement with the Bureau of Immigration, whereby if an Indian passport-holder has a live visa for Canada, the US, UK, Japan, Singapore or Australia, he will be given visa-on-arrival. For other countries, we are considering an extension from the current 21-day visa to 30 days.