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.
How has the Middle East market performed for the Philippines?
The Middle East market has performed very well. The GCC is an important market for us as it is high-yeild, lucrative and long-stay. These three are key aspect for us. We are happy with the numbers from the region which is a result of our consistent effort. We have participated in key regional events such as ATM and strengthened our presence with a regional representative. For 2013, we will see a wider foot print of our campaign ‘More fun in the Philippines’ globally.
What key 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 Bora Kai. 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.
Could you elaborate on any specific trade initiatives?
We will continue our participation in the major trade fairs both in the Middle East and globally. For 2013 in the Middle East, we are considering participating in the Riyadh Travel Fair. Other activities will continue such as familiarisation tours along with partner airlines. We are also considering having a road show across the GCC. New media will also be a strong focus for us. This new platform has been one of the key factors for the success of our campaign. Over the next couple of months, you will see more exposure on the destination as we move towards our target of 10 million visitors by 2016.
Which would 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 South East Asia. This will also include high-yield markets such as the Middle East, India and Russia. We will also be focusing a lot more on in more countries within South East Asia. We have yet to capitalise on short-haul connections and build our inbound market by promoting cross-border travel.
Would 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.
Would you consider launching an online training program for the Philippines?
We have rolled out similar programs in the US and Japan, wherein agents are trained through several processes and finally certified as ‘Philippines Tourism Specialist’. We would look at rolling out this program in other markets too.
Would the country look at 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, wherein, if an Indian passport holder has a live visa of any of the following countries such as Canada, US, UK, Japan, Singapore, 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. The draft is under process as we would like to make it easier for visitors.