“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling pamayanan, mag-cruise sa Asean.” (Don’t be a stranger in your own community, go cruising in Asean.)
This may well be a catchy quip in the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s new push in intra-regional travel, harking back to pre-Edsa revolution slogans for domestic tourism.
Asean tourism ministers, including Philippine Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr., are pushing “Asean for Asean” activities to boost visits of citizens of Asean member nations to other member countries. The other nine members of Asean are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam.
The campaign relies heavily on organizing travel and tourism fairs, seminars, conferences and other related activities promoting Asean tourism.
As a further support for this drive, the website www.aseantourism.travel was launched when the ministers gathered in the Laotian capital of Vientiane for their sixth meeting last month.
According to a joint statement from the meeting, the website is meant to strengthen the flow of tourism information within the region and enhance awareness about cooperation activities in Asean tourism.
Based on the Asean Tourism Marketing Strategy 2012-2015, cooperation is focused on developing four main regional tourism products—nature, cultural and heritage, community, and cruise and river-based tourism.
In each of the four categories, an Asean member has usually three activities listed although some have less and some have more. Under this framework, 12 activities in the Philippines are featured.
Listed for nature-based tourism are whale- and dolphin-watching in Pamilacan Island (in Bohol province), trekking at the Ifugao Rice Terraces, and tours of Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte.
Promoted for cultural and heritage tourism are tours of the Ilocos provinces, tours of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, and a tour of Cebu City dubbed “Paseo sa Kabilin,” or heritage tour.
Highlighted for community-based tourism are the Abatan River community in Bohol, Donsol whale shark interaction in Sorsogon, and the Tibolo Cultural Village tour with the Tagabawa-Bagobo tribes in Digos City, Davao del Sur.
Endorsed for cruise and river-based tourism are the Loboc River in Bohol; firefly watching in Donsol, Sorsogon; and the Dipolog River in Zamboanga del Norte.
Citing preliminary figures, the tourism ministers noted that international visitor arrivals in all 10 Asean members grew by 10.1 percent to about 75 million in 2012.
“Enhanced air connectivity, particularly the strong growth of low-cost carriers (LCCs) within Asean, has been a contributing factor in maintaining intra-Asean travel as the major source market with a share of 46 percent of total international arrivals,” the ministers said.
According to a study conducted by research firm Frost and Sullivan (F&S), the Philippines is expected to show the highest growth rate in air passenger volume at an average of 4.6 percent annually until 2014.