WHEN delegates from 30 countries come to the Philippines with keen interest on the country’s high-end destinations, then you know that tourism is really on the upswing.
A group of travel agencies formed S8 Exhibition Inc., and, for two years running, has been staging the Asia Premium Travel Mart, where it brings together in one venue international buyers and luxury destinations here in the country.
What happens for two days is that the two sides hold scheduled business-to-business meetings with the end goal of potentially having partnerships. If everything works out, a network is established, which will provide an additional boost on Philippine tourism.
On the average, S8 Exhibition Inc. board member and designated spokesman Edwin Villanueva told me that tourists coming into the country spend at the most P40,000 daily. But with luxury travel, that figure more than doubles to P90,000.
The most eye-popping number Villanueva told me was that this big spenders spend an average nine-day stay in the Philippines whenever they go here. So, if you are doing the math, each one of them spends at least P800,000 when they are here in the country.
That is a lot of cash to throw around. That is an amount that I wish I could have in my life. Imagine the possibilities for ordinary Juan de la Cruz if he suddenly be in possession of that money. It is a golden ticket to a better life.
But, hey, if tourists would want to spend them here in the country, I am sure no one will object to that idea. After all, it has already been established that tourism has a trickledown effect on the economy and employment.
Last year tourism contributed 10.60 percent to the country’s GDP and provided employment to 5 million Filipinos. Think for one moment how those numbers would look like when tourist arrivals breach the 10-million mark.
Villanueva told me there is a survey that indicated that in the Asia-Pacific region, luxury travelers coming to the country are from Japan, China, Singapore, India and Hong Kong. Outside the region, the Philippines has been a magnet to those from Canada, Germany, the United States, the Netherlands, France and Sweden.
That is not a bad list at all, considering that we still do not have direct flights to most of those countries, especially to those that are outside of the region.
If you are wondering what the most expensive destinations in the country are today, Villanueva said El Nido and Amanpulo top the list. Both destinations are in Palawan, which, according to Villanueva, can have guests coughing up to P130,000 for a two-night stay.
What makes these places expensive? Well, they are basically constructed for the jet-set crowd, while also offering exclusivity and comfort.
As for the other things these luxury travelers do in the country, I am a bit surprised on the items mentioned by Villanueva.
Outdoor activities, like diving and surfing, are given. Same with golf, I guess. But, according to Villanueva, these tourists also love to do a lot of shopping in the country. I just hope that they are not just doing it in the mall, which shall not be named in this column, ever.
Oh, and having their wedding and honeymoon here in the country seems to be also on the rise. Villanueva said this fact is more pronounced with Indian visitors. He said these types of ceremonies can already be officiated here in the country.
From what I have been hearing, the Philippines has luxury destinations that are comparable to the rest of the world. We are being touted to have unique offerings that really have value for money. You also know that our people are our best asset, and that they make visitors’ stay even more fun.
Take, for example, the Calabarzon area, which Tourism Region 4 Director Rebecca V. Labit said is now a thriving tourist destination.
She added that luxury tourists coming to the country can check their agritourism and health and wellness destinations.
From what I experienced, Calabarzon is one place where you can visit and do so many things. Trust me, P130,000 can get you so much more there over an extended time period at that.
The same story is probably true in Albay, a province that I have not visited yet. That is something I really have to address, as the province is just one bus ride away from Metro Manila, I think.
According to Rep. Joey S. Salceda of Albay, last year they received close to half-a-million international tourists and 1.40 million domestic tourists. But the best days are yet to come, with its international airport already under construction.
Anyway, the bottom line is we need to welcome these tourists and make their stay in the country truly memorable. The potential of tourism can go far and beyond what with overseas Filipino workers remittances and business-process outsourcing revenues can offer.
On that part, S8 Exhibition Inc. is doing an admirable job in trying to lure the big spenders into the country.
It closed its second edition of the Asia Premium Travel Mart on Thursday with the fact that it has brought to the country 60 buyers from 30 countries, including those from Europe, South Africa, the United States and here in Asia to see and gauge for themselves what the Philippines can offer.
I know the tourism infrastructure has only been given serious attention the past couple of years and that accommodation in certain destinations are still hard to find. Some places can also be very expensive on the pocket.
But you know what? The Philippines has a lot to offer, and it would be sad if we fail to explore places in the country, be it on a shoestring budget, at least once in our lifetime.
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Image credits: PHOTOS BY ROY DOMINGO