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Philippines to lure tourists with local brands

By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:20:00 08/22/2008

Filed Under: Tourism, Retail

Finally, there will be a shopping festival in the Philippines that will rival neighboring countries? ?grand sale? promotions that send some of our countrymen packing to sharpen their bargain-hunting skills.

However, this one billed ?September Shopfest Philippines 2008,? is aimed at foreign spenders and there are no discount bonanzas.

It?s not the imported designer brands that lure foreign tourists to the Philippines for shopping; it?s the Filipino brands. And coming to learn about it from his deliberate ?expeditions? into the psyche and mindset of his target markets abroad, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano is putting the Filipino brands upfront in positioning the Philippines as an international shopping destination.

Collaboration between the local retailers and the Department of Tourism, the campaign is also meant to create new markets for retailers amid dampened demand due to inflation. The initiative was launched during the opening of the 17th National Retail Conference last Aug. 15-17.

?The retail business is adaptable in that it could ride on whichever industry is booming. Today, the sunrise industry is tourism,? said Samie Lim, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Retailers Association.

Lim said it was high time for the country to have a big shopping event, considering that earlier this year there were campaigns like Malaysia Mega Sale, Amazing Thailand Grand Sale, Great Singapore Sale and even the Dubai Shopping Festival.

Durano said that unlike the other shopping events, the local one would not be about high-end brands and big discounts.

?September Shopfest is about the quality and affordability of what we sell here in the Philippines, which are consumer goods for everyday use,? Durano explains. ?We are targeting the Asia-Pacific markets.?

He says that he had always got feedback that tourists were impressed with the quality of make of local products despite their relatively lower prices as well as the hospitality of local salespeople.

These are not the types of products that are so expensive that one has to use them only on very important occasions. These products range from clothes, shirts, shoes and bags for casual wear to semi-precious gems and fashion accessories, all the way to gift items made of nontraditional materials for souvenirs and other amazing surprises that are nonetheless very Filipino.

Foreign tourists ?love coming to the Philippines because they love our local brands and are proud to have them for everyday use,? Durano said.

?Our ads on the September Shopfest will be seen in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and other parts of the Asia Pacific, including India and Spain,? he said. ?We have our own approach compared to that of our neighbors in Southeast Asia, so this does not undermine the initiative to promote a ?one ASEAN destination.??

He is referring to efforts among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to package the region as a unified tourism destination, partly to help countries that may not be interesting enough for visitors if considered alone.

?We know that retailers have tight margins now, the last thing we want is to ask them to give discount,? Durano said. ?We can compete without having to go head-on, it?s a matter of finding a market segment that appreciates the type of shopping we provide?the Asia-Pacific.?

?The September tag is just a deadline for the retailers to join the campaign which will continue after that,? he says. ?So far, most of the major malls had signed up.?

The Department of Tourism aims at the travel industry posting a total of $5.8 billion in tourist spending this year, which is already way past the $5-billion target for 2010 that was set two years ago.

Asked why Shopfest Philippines comes only now, Durano says the tourism industry had been busy ?bringing in the warm bodies,? but now the focus is on the value of the visits.

?This is part of our continuing effort to focus on higher-value activity,? he explains. ?The difference of our campaign in shopping is that this is not a grand sale. It is really about the Filipino brand and an all-year round campaign.?

The tourism chief adds that after September, the Department of Tourism and the retailers would come out with another campaign that would sustain the momentum.

?For the tourists, the benefit will be value,? he says. ?We have had tourists telling us that they are attracted to shop for Filipino brands of RTWs, shoes, etc., not because of a sale but because these are well-made and affordable.?

For the retailers, the incentive to participate in the campaigns is the creation of a new market base considering that the domestic market has been, as Durano describes it, ?already saturated.?

The Philippine Retailers Association?s Lim said the group was preparing a proposal to the government for a refund of the value-added tax for tourists.

?Other countries have had that for some time now,? Lim said. ?It?s about time that we do, and it would help attract more visitors to come here.? With editing by INQUIRER.net



Copyright 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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