DOT targets tourists from Russia to reach 71,000 in five years

In Photo: Russian and other foreign tour operators and interested tourists check out the Philippines’s booth at the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition, Russia’s largest travel show, held from March 14 to 16. The Philippines is eyeing an increase in Russian visitor arrivals from 25,000 in 2015 to 71,000 in 2022.

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is taking an aggressive approach in trying to attract more Russians to visit the Philippines.

The agency successfully participated in the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which was also in line with President Duterte’s policy of strengthening the ties between the Philippines and Russia.

Under the DOT’s National Tourism Development Plan for 2016-2022, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, the agency is seeking an increase in Russian visitor arrivals from 25,000 in 2015 to 71,000 by 2022, the last year of Duterte’s term of office.

In a separate news statement, the DOT said a delegation, led by the government agency that included top Filipino travel and tour executives, garnered an “overwhelming response” among more than 3,000 delegates from across the globe, who gathered for business-to-business meetings during the three-day travel fair that opened on March 14. The DOT said the Philippines’s booth drew thousands of visitors and travel professionals who were eager to find out more information about the featured attractions of Palawan, Boracay, Davao and Siargao.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo underscored the importance of firming up the relations between the Philippines and Russia, which can only bring tremendous benefits to the local tourism industry. “We have a great advantage compared to other countries, because the Russians, including President Vladimir Putin, have a great respect for President Duterte and his peace-and-order drive, making the Philippines a safe place to visit,” she said.

Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization in 2015 ranked Russia as the world’s sixth-biggest outbound market in terms of expenditure, spending $35 billion in travels abroad. “Russians spend more than others, and they stay for an average of two weeks with their families in the Philippines,” Teo added.

More than 28,000 Russians have visited the Philippines in 2016, up 11.6 percent from 2015, despite the European Union trade sanctions that have impacted the Russian economy, the DOT chief  said. Before the ruble crashed in 2014, visitor arrivals from Russia in the Philippines were growing by 30 percent annually, which earned it a place on the DOT’s list of “high-growth target markets”, Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. explained in an interview.

“Russia is an opportunity market for us; so we usually have engagements with Moscow and Vladivostok, [which] was the naval headquarters of the Soviet Union, and up until the [region’s] breakup, a lot of Russians couldn’t even go to Vladivostok. But there’s a lot of potential, apart from [its] growing middle class, the proximity of the Philippines, etc.,” explained Bengzon, who handles the development of new tourism markets.

An air-service agreement between Russia and the Philippines signed in July 2015 allows Philippine carriers to fly seven times a week between any point in the Philippines to three points in Russia—Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok. However, there are still no direct scheduled flight services between both countries, due to the tepid demand from tourists going to Russia. Also, there are only some 4,000 Filipinos working in Russia. The Philippines hopes to increase this number, though. Last December the Department of Labor and Employement said it was eyeing to send more skilled workers to Russia.

Pioneering flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) does have charter flights between Vladivostok and two points in the Philippines—Cebu and Kalibo. The peak season for charter flights for PAL is usually during the winter months in Russia, when its citizens escape the cold climate for the warmer beach destinations of the Philippines.

MITT is Russia’s largest travel show and considered to be one of the top travel exhibitions in the world. Up to 28,000 industry professionals and more than 1,600 exhibitors from 182 countries and regions joined this year’s edition.

To maximize the presence of the private sector in Russia, the DOT also conducted a Tourism Selling Mission on March 17 in Saint Petersburg, the second-largest city in Russia. The news statement did not say, however, who were the private-sector participants in the MITT and Saint  Petersburg selling mission.

Image credits: DOT Photo

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