Travel Log: 10M visitors in 4 years a tall order

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03:17 AM October 8th, 2012

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By: Rick Alberto, October 8th, 2012 03:17 AM

The Ayala Terraces in Cebu City. Cebu is one of seven areas chosen for long-term stay or retirement in the country by foreign chambers of commerce in the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines— The Philippines targets 10 million international tourists by 2016, when President Aquino’s term ends. Last year, almost 4 million visited the country, and the Department of Tourism targets 4.6 million visitors for 2012.

The 2016 target seems to be a tall order. This means that it four years’ time, the country hopes to double tourist arrivals.

The DOT has  many challenges to hurdle to be able to attain its goal, and on top of these is its negative image or even lack of awareness about the country among travelers.

Jimenez earlier this year, according to a CNN report, told reporters that “the biggest reason for our low numbers [of tourist arrivals] is not our infrastructure, crime, negative reports in the media or even the cost of flying into the Philippines.” The problem, he said, “is ignorance….They just haven’t heard of the Philippines,” he was quoted in the CNN Go article.

Is the government willing to spend much in promoting the Philippines, just like its Asian neighbors, particularly Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and even Indonesia and Vietnam, so it can attain its ambitious goal?

Among the Asean 5, the Philippines is the cellar dweller in terms of arrivals. We trail fourth-placer Indonesia, which had 7.65 million international tourist arrivals in 2011, according to the World Tourism Organization. Malaysia had 24.71 million arrivals; Thailand 19.10 million; and Singapore 10.39 million.

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The Retirement & Healthcare Coalition (RHC) , which is composed of the European, American, Japanese and Korean Chambers of Commerce, has pinpointed seven areas in the Philippines that are ideal for foreigners to visit for long duration, perhaps even to retire in, based on three main factors: community, healthcare and lifestyle.

These areas are: Manila, Clark, Subic the Calabarzon (composed of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Cebu, Dumaguete and Siquijor Island. Log on to RHC’s website: www.longstayphilippines.com.

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While the Philippines is having a downturn in Chinese arrivals caused by the territorial spat between the two countries, the DOT may well entice the Indians, whose citizens are traveling outside their country in greater numbers as a result of newfound prosperity.

India is the 13th-largest market for the Philippines, which attracted 30,583 of its citizens during the period January-August this year. We could attract more Indian tourists if they are given visa on arrival, just like Thailand does.

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CALENDAR:  A Spanish/Latin America film festival dubbed “Pelikula, Pelicula,” showcases some 20 films at the Greenbelt 3 cinemas; ongoing until October 14….. Toyota Classics will feature the Vienna Chamber Orchestra at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (main theatre) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on November 13, Tuesday.

For inputs, e-mail ricardo.alberto@inquirer.net

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