THE Philippines pushed further cooperation in Asian tourism initiatives to continue to boost the growth in visitor arrivals in the region.
Speaking at the roundtable for ministers at the Global Tourism Forum of the recent Tour Expo Japan 2017, Philippines Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said: “This growth is something we hope for, but collaboration among our nations will be the key to continued growth, development and sustainability of tourism in Asia.”
Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showed international visitor arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region growing by 5.7 percent in the first half of the 2017. The growth rate is well within the organization’s earlier projected growth rate of 5 percent and 6 percent for 2017. No volumes were available for the first half arrivals, although arrivals for full-year 2016 was 308.4 million.
Visitor arrivals in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, recorded an increase of 7 percent from the same period in 2016. Full-year 2016 arrivals in the region were 113.3 million. Said growth in Southeast Asia outpaced the 6-percent global average for the first six months of 2017.
According to the UNWTO’s latest World Tourism Barometer, “destinations worldwide welcomed 598 million international tourists in the first six months of 2017, some 36 million in the same period than in the same period of 2016. At 6 percent, growth was well above the trend of recent years, making the current January-to-June period the strongest half-year since 2010”.
The first half of the year usually accounts for about 46 percent of total annual international arrivals, with the second half longer by three days, and including the Northern Hemisphere high season months of July and August.
“The first half of 2017 shows healthy growth in an increasingly dynamic and resilient tourism market, including a strong recovery in some of the destinations impacted by security challenges last year”, outgoing UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said in a news statement.
At the Tokyo conference, meanwhile, Teo said the Philippines will always be a partner in the worldwide effort to protect the environment and ensure the sustainability of the tourism industry.
“With the Philippines’s diversely rich natural environment, Filipinos offer ultimate fun experience to our guests. But, without collaborated measures on environmental protection, we cannot ensure sustainable growth of the tourism industry nor reap its economic benefits,” she noted.
In a separate meeting with Japanese tourism executives, she congratulated the organizers of the Tour Expo Japan participated in by 140 countries this year to stimulate overseas travel among the Japanese.
The tourism chief led a 33-member delegation comprised of 15 Filipino travel and tour operators, including Philippine Air Lines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and various hôteliers, with the rest coming from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its marketing arm, the Tourism Promotions Board.
The DOT, likewise, held bilateral tourism talks with officials of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism headed by Minister Keiichi Ishii; and met with companies offering Japanese travelers tour packages anchored on studying English as a Second Language (ESL) in the Philippines. The latter include the Association for English Studies in the Philippines headed by Minemura, Atsushi and DMM.com, a web site for learning English online, represented by Yamamoto Asami.
At the Expo site, the Philippines’s 198-square-meter booth highlighted the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” brand, showcasing the 7,100-island nation as a premium resort destination. The booth featured seminars about Philippine destinations and products, business-to-business meetings, onstage performances by award-winning Filipino talents, and virtual-reality gadgets to enable travelers to “experience” Philippine destinations. The booth also offered visitors a sampling of the Philippine Hilot massage therapy at the Wellness corner, fun Filipino cocktail mixes and fruit shakes at the Mabuhay Bar, a roving ice-cream cart with Filipino ice-cream flavors and an interactive fun photo wall.
The Philippine DOT delegation included Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon Jr.; Assistant Secretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation for Luzon and Visayas Ma. Lourdes Japson; and Director for Market Development for Russia, India, Middle East and Europe Verna C. Buensuceso.