PH travel firms shift marketing focus to Asean
As regional economic integration nears, the country’’s tourism industry is behooved to think Asean.
The Philippine Tourism Operators Association (Philtoa) makes sure that when it holds its 25th Philippine Travel Mart on Sept. 5-7 at SMX Convention Center, Asean tour packages are available—a first for the local travel showcase that has never allowed the promotion of outbound destinations in the past.
“Basically, this is the first time that we are allocating a pavilion for an intra-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) product campaign [involving the member countries] so we [can] boost our tourism economy as one united Asean,” Philtoa public relations officer Clang Garcia said during the recent media launch of the 25th Philippine Travel Mart at Island Cove in Cavite province.
Asean tours in the travel fair, however, will not be marketed at the expense of the country’s own.
After all, this is the Philippine Travel Mart whose primary objective is to beef up the local tourism industry.
Philtoa resolved to bundle up Asean destinations with local tourist spots under its Twin City package.
“These Asean packages will be sold with a local destination. For example, [there] will be a combination of Boracay-Bali, Manila-Siem Reap, Vietnam-Cebu,” said Philtoa president Oscar Cruz.
The idea is to make the most of the seamless travel opportunities resulting from the economic integration and to create an “Asean hub” in the country, which, Cruz said, will probably be the trend in the member-countries come 2015.
“This means that when you go to Manila or Cebu, for example, you can now be connected to other Asean countries. Let’s say, Puerto Princesa could be connected to Kota Kinabalu. There’s also a direct flight now from Manila to Siem Reap in Cambodia, or to Vietnam,” Cruz said. “We want to establish that the Philippines can be a hub for the Asean, too.”
For these offerings at the Philippine Travel Mart, different airlines operating within the Asean region were also tapped to extend the best airfares to the visitors, he added.
It may be easier for other Asean countries, especially those in landlocked areas, to pull off such a trend because they have more access points and more frequent flights, but Cruz said “it would be best not to ask for something we do not have and instead make do with what we have.”
Besides, in terms of destinations, the country is never far behind, he said.
Philtoa and the Department of Tourism (DOT) are convinced that, with so many destinations all over the archipelago, the Philippines can definitely compete with other countries in tourism.
What sets us apart from the rest of the Asean is that we could easily name 10 destinations for foreign travelers, DOT Assistant Secretary Art Boncato said at the launch.
Banking on this multi-destination feature, the DOT has created an international advertising campaign highlighting various destinations rather than the Philippines as a whole. The first wave of the ads released early this year was composed of 30-seconders for Boracay, Davao, Cebu and Manila. The second wave, which will be rolled out soon, includes Zamboanga and Iloilo, each having its own exposure on international TV channels.
“The strategy of the second wave is really focused on being multi-tier and multidimensional in terms of offerings. So when you go to Cebu, for instance, aside from enjoying the culture of music, color of history, you also enjoy underwater world, diving,” Boncato said.
He also reported that based on recent statistics, tourism has been making major strides.
From January to June this year, around 2.4 million foreigners visited the country, representing a modest increase of 2.2 percent from the same period last year, Boncato said, citing DOT data.
But what was notable, he said, was that these tourists had been staying longer and spending more.
“From an average rate of around P3,800 last year, the traveler this year has spent P4,800. So that’s about a 25-percent increase in expenditure,” Boncato said. “And the average stay of a tourist last year was calculated at 10.3 days, this year, we’re [seeing that it’s] around 11.5 days.”
Philtoa agrees that it is not too hard to attract the long-haul tourist market.
A foreigner from, say, the United States or Europe would never run out of beaches to check out, things to do and places to visit in the country, Cruz said.
“In fact, we see them staying here from 15 to 21 days, and with an average spending of $150 to $200 per tourist per day. Just imagine the revenues this creates,” he added.
While there is a conscious effort to attract long-staying foreigners, Cruz said the domestic market would not be ignored.
The DOT estimates that at least 43 million Filipinos will travel around the country in 2014, up fro almost 36 million last year, according to Boncato.
Last year, with more than 200 participating companies, the Philippine Travel Mart sold around P50 million worth of local tour packages with an average cost of P5,000 to P10,000 a package.
This year, Philtoa tapped deluxe resorts and properties throughout the country to capture the high-end market.
Visitors could expect discounted rates from luxury destinations like El Rio Y Mar, Club Paradise, Busuanga Bay Lodge, Huma Island Resort, Two Seasons Resort and the Sangat Island Dive in Palawan province.
Philtoa will also be offering Pasasalamat Sale ng Bayan trips that will help rebuild provinces affected by last year’s earthquake and supertyphoon like Bohol and Samar.
Just a reminder to would-be travel mart visitors, though: Come to the party prepared.
“We want to promote responsible travelling. Plan ahead and be sure that when you come to the Travel Mart, you already have dates and alternative dates for your trip,” Garcia said.
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