Destination Philippines

The travel scene is hotting up for one of the coolest Southeast Asian destinations: leveraging on the enduring promise that ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’, the country’s tourism industry is sending out a serious invitation to the world.

Banking on the success of both traditional and non-traditional attractions, coupled with the ‘Visit the Philippines Year’ (VPY) 2015 initiative, Department of Tourism (DOT) Philippines is looking forward to stamping the passports of more than 10 million visitors by 2016.

Coinciding with major events such as the Papal visit in January and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meetings and Leaders’ Summit, VPY 2015 has real potential for private sector success, with hotels, airlines, event organisers and travel agencies set to ride along the anticipated waves of achievement. VPY 2015 comes at a time when DOT Philippines is making progress on a number of measures to realise the planned regional economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the readiness of the Bureau of Immigration to honour the common visas extended by all member countries to those travelling to the Philippines.

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Bolstered by these initiatives and an industrywide commitment to invest in upgrades, the country has witnessed a leap in foreign tourism revenues and yielded a robust economic growth performance. In turn, this has triggered a surge in job generation. “These are reasons enough for the private sector to maximise the potential benefits of our growing tourism. We hope that all stakeholders partake in spreading the word about Visit the Philippines Year 2015,” said tourism secretary, DOT Philippines, Ramon Jimenez Jr.

Indeed, the recently concluded WTM London provided an ideal opportunity for the Tourism Promotions Board and DOT Philippines to spread the word about the VPY 2015 campaign, with visitors to the Philippines’ stand enjoying a colourful display of cultural performances and savouring its home-grown delights.

YOUTHFUL OUTLOOK

Being ‘fun’ at heart, it is perhaps no surprise that the Philippines is directly targeting a younger generation of travellers. With this in mind, STA Travel has signed a new agreement with DOT Philippines that will promote the destination to the dynamic generation of youth travellers especially in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and Australia.

As part of the on-going ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ campaign, four independent filmmakers will travel to the Philippines with the aim of capturing the country’s main visitor pull factors, including volcanoes, national parks, beaches and island hopping.

“At STA Travel we are always focused on discovering new and exciting destinations for our travellers and this year we sent a team of product developers out to the Philippines to find out what it had to offer,” said CEO, STA Travel, John Constable.

“As a consequence, we are now delighted to be working so closely with the Philippines tourism board to promote such an exciting destination with our brand new ideas and tours.”

According to chief operations officer, DOT Philippines, Domingo Ramon Enerio III, the new innovations, the improvement in infrastructure and value-for-money options being laid out make the Philippines a tempting option for young travellers.

“We have a number of off-the-beaten-track and non-traditional offerings across the islands that are certainly of interest to this market,” he added.

SERVING EAST AND WEST

Facilitating access to the kaleidoscopic offering that is the Philippines, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is on an aggressive path of expansion which stretches from East to West.

With Japan hailed as the Philippines’ third largest source of arrivals, according to data released by DOT Philippines, PAL’s new services respond to increased demand. By mid-December 2015, the carrier will initiate four weekly flights between Cebu and Osaka, and three weekly flights between Cebu and Nagoya. Meanwhile, with an eye firmly fixed on the US east coast, PAL will launch its long-awaited route to New York City on March 15, 2015.

Chairman and CEO, PAL, Lucio Tan said: “This auspicious start of regular flights to New York will coincide with PAL’s 74th founding anniversary.”

Adding to the country’s aviation success, and providing an attractive low cost option, is Cebu Pacific (CEB), which recently announced a stellar table of Q3 results for 2014. Topping more than four million passengers, the airline has posted a 16.8 per cent increase compared to the 3.4 million flown in the same corresponding period last year.

“The Cebu Pacific Air group is on track to meeting our target of serving 17 million passengers this year. CEB’s growth in Q3 of 2014 was driven by increased presence in key markets, sustained demand for air travel and industry capacity rationalisation,” remarked vice president – corporate affairs, CEB, Jorenz Tañada.

The positive news for CEB also sweeps across into its ever-expanding route network. With Japan being a clear source market frontrunner, the airline will launch its direct Cebu-Tokyo-Cebu flights on March 26, 2015.

Meanwhile, emerging markets in the MENA region have also heralded the implementation of additional services: both Riyadh and Dammam are now served thrice weekly and non-stop by the low cost carrier.

“Cebu Pacific will keep flying to where the Filipinos are. As we expand our operations in the Middle East, we are proud to offer even more Filipinos in the KSA the fastest, most affordable way to come home,” said general manager for long haul, CEB, Alex Reyes.

Growth also stretches across CEB’s fleet, with the airline having recently taken delivery of its 52nd aircraft – a brand new Airbus A320 with Sharklets.

Sporting similar aviation success, the recent announcement that heralds Manila as the host destination for the 2016 Routes Asia seems not only timely but is wholly deserved. The 14th Routes Asia will be hosted by DOT Philippines and co-hosted by Manila International Airport Authority from March 6 to 8, 2016, along with their stakeholders, including Tourism Promotions Board and Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority.

“The Philippines is a strong viable option for staging the largest and most important route development forum in Asia. Trade, investment and tourism in the country have grown rapidly in the last few years creating opportunities for expanding air routes to major points in Asia and the rest of the world,” said Jimenez.

The event promises to help the host deliver on its objectives to turn the Philippines into one of the top gateways in the region. With such a prospect at its fingertips, the country is on a fast track modernisation plan of its primary and secondary airports to improve
the arrival experience.

‘Fun’ does indeed seem to lie at the very heart of the Philippines’ approach to tourism and it is a mind-set that is wholeheartedly embraced on an industry wide level. However, this sense of fun should never be mistaken for cheerful complacency. The Philippines is taking tourism utterly seriously, and as a result, is poised for certain success.