On the 41st anniversary of the Dapartment of Tourism (DOT),Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. has one appeal to every Filipino:make tourism your business.
Jimenez’s enthusiasm in spreading the ‘gospel’ of tourism to his countrymen is understandable. The industry has become one of the biggest moneymakers for the Philippines.
In 2013, the total revenue from inbound visitors increased by 15.1 percent, to a hefty $4.40 billion (P186.15 billion). The increase surprised tourism officials, who were expecting fewer visitors after a series of calamities struck the country.
According to Jimenez, 4,681,307 foreigners visited the country last year, a 9.56 percent jump from 2012 figure of 4,272,811.
The figure was below the Philippine target of five million arrivals for the year, but Jimenez still considers 2013 to be a milestone for the tourism industry, since visitor arrivals increased despite the devastating earthquake in Cebu and Bohol and Super Typhoon Yolanda in November.
Jimenez said the key source markets generally performed well during the month of December, proof of the tourism sector’s resilience.
South Korea is the Philippines’ biggest source of tourists, with 1.17 million visitors from that country.
The United States ranks second with 674,564 arrivals. Other visitors came from Japan (433,705); China (426,352); Australia (213,023); Singapore (175,034); Taiwan (139,099); Canada (131,381); Hong Kong (126,088); United Kingdom (122,759); Malaysia (109,437); and Germany (70,949).
Filipino Pride Sells
Jimenez believes that one of the reasons that attracted foreign tourists to the country is the DOT’s aggressive promotion campaign, bannered by slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
Bestowed the prestigious Tambuli Award for integrated marketing communication efforts, the campaign is proof that “Filipino pride sells,” Jimenez said.
The Tambuli awards recognize social relevance, values and effectiveness of marketng communication projects.
With this campaign, the DOT was able to inspire a people’s campaign. The voice of 95 million Filipinos (27 million of whom are active on Facebook and almost 10 million on Twitter) and over 12 million Filipino workers overseas was expressed in one idea. The campaign’s launch has spent zero on above-the-line advertising, and has arguably become the most famous international and domestic tourism campaign in Philippine history. Just two days after the media launch (January 6, 2012), the campaign had become the top trending topic online worldwide. Tapping into everyone’s desire to be creative, the campaign sparked off the creation of over 75,000 memes through inspired user-created ad-maker sites and mobile apps. These individual memes have later been translated into promotional posters, brochures, newspaper and magazine ads, and a global TV commercial –entirely from crowd-sourced ideas.
As a result, the DOT had effectively turned the 95 million Filipinos into a tourism sales force. The campaign line has become a rallying cry, building a new sense of excitement and renewed enthusiasm for the country’s tourism industry. Up to the present, the campaign continues to be supported by partners both in the public and private sectors.
For 2014, Jimenez believes prospects are even brighter for the tourism industry. The DOT is so upbeat it is targeting six million foreign tourist arrivals before the end of this year.
In fact, 2014 has a promising start. Last January alone, 461,363 tourists arrived in the country, a 5.8 percent rise from January 2013’s 436,079. Jimenez reported that receipts from these visitors amounted to $469 million.
As of February 2014, visitor arrivals amounted to 884,014 posting a growth of 3.49 percent from the same period last year.
Another positive development is the returning to Category 1 status of the local commercial aviaton industry by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The status upgrade allows Philippine carriers to schedule more flights to US destinations.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the upgrade would be a boon to the country’s tourism industry, help local airlines expand their operations, and improve trade and business relations between the Philippines and the US.
DOT welcomes this positive development. Philippine carriers can now operate to other cities in the United States and increase frequencies to existing routes.
Meanwhile Sec. Jimenez says, “Medical tourism is one of our niche products. The Philippines is fortunate to have a wealth of skilled medical professionals. The DOT is taking a closer look at dentistry, orthodontics, orthopaedics, and cancer care among others. The Philippines has a full range of services but at present, investment in equipment is concentrated in Manila and still needs to spread to other areas.”
The Market Development Group DOT is spearheading a Technical Working Group (TWG) in formulating the strategic framework for Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism which aims to establish and implement the following initiatives:
. DOT workshop and capacity building
. Market development strategy for Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism with particular emphasis on a communications plan.
. Better partnership with the private sector hospitals to establish a Proof of Concept (POC) and a Business Model to derived the projected arrivals related to Medical and Wellness Tourism
. Product-market match from the “Centers of Excellence.”
. Proposed roadshow in 2014 to tap actual source markets in the U.S.
Jimenez also believes the continuous implementation of programs under the National Tourism Development Plan will bear fruit.
The DOT is also preparing for the Visit the Philippines Year (VPY) 2015 which will feature a year-long calendar of events, Jimenez said.
In conclusion, Sec. Jimenez says, “As the Tourism Secretary, I hope to be able to transform the DOT into a primary selling unit with the ultimate goal of not only improving statistics, but also ensuring that every tourism success would include as many Filipinos as possible.
“Tourism is not about the number of foreigners visiting our country, but rather the jobs and businesses we create for the Filipino people. This was the guiding principle and vision shared by President Benigno S. Aquino III to me upon my appointment as Department of Tourism Secretary. Since then, we have taken to heart that the be-all and end-all of tourism is the welfare of the Filipino people i.e. to generate fulfilling and profitable income for Filipinos and make tourism a hallmark of his administration’s drive to bring our people to a richer, prouder future.”