PHL seeks to attract more Japan women travelers

In Photo: Guests are touched by the hands of Hilot massage therapists at the Philippines Experience Zone during the Philippine Business Mission in Tokyo at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Roppongi. (Contributed Photo)

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is confident of exceeding its targeted 600,000 Japanese tourists this year, as it launched a program specifically addressing the growing market for women travelers.

Led by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat, the DOT last week introduced Japanese fashion model Loveli, and actress and Miss Universe-Japan 2014 Hiro Nishiuchi as the Philippine Tourism Fun Ambassadors, during the Philippine Business Mission (PBM) held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Ropponggi, Tokyo.

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, the DOT chief said the introduction of these ambassadors is “in line with our Joshi Tabi [Women’s Travel] program to reach out to the ladies market since our arrivals from Japan are still largely male.”

This is part of the DOT’s recently launched Kirei Ni Nareru Firipin (The Philippines Makes You Beautiful Inside and Out) sub campaign to promote health and wellness, culinary/gastronomy tourism, shopping, studying English, and various nature-based activities for the modern woman.

“Our tourism fun ambassadors are celebrities who embody healthy wholesome lifestyles and have many followers on social media. They are influencers who we will use in our various promotional activities. We have also created social-media content for us and for them to use to promote Philippine destinations,” she stressed.

The PBM, an annual sales blitz held in Japan by the DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board, proceeded to Nagoya and Osaka from June 26 to 28.

Arrivals from Japan grew by 9.14 percent to 584,180 in 2017, making it the fourth-largest source of tourists for the Philippines. In an e-mail, DOT Spokesman and Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said last year’s increase in Japanese arrivals “is 100 percent higher than Japan’s outbound rate in 2017 of 4.5 percent. As of April 2018, Japanese arrivals continued to grow by 9 percent [to 230,199].  The Philippines is expected to breach the 600,000-mark in Japanese arrivals to the Philippines this year.”

In addition, Tourism Attaché to Japan Verna Covar Buensuceso said in a separate e-mail, “During the Golden Week holidays, SkyScanner, an online search engine for flights, reported that the Philippines registered the highest increase in terms of searched flights, growing by 107 percent over the previous year. This is a good indication that our arrivals targets are achievable.” Golden Week is a cluster of holidays in Japan usually falling in the last week of April to the first week of May, when Japanese take their holidays abroad.

The Tokyo leg of the PBM was held on June 25. The Philippine delegation, composed of 36 private sector and DOT Region 7 (Central Visaya) and 3 (Central Luzon) representatives, was led by Romulo Puyat in her first overseas engagement as DOT head.

Around 155 Japanese travel trade representatives attended the Philippine Fun Seminar sessions, said Bengzon.  This year’s B2B Travel Mart was participated in by 59 representatives from 36 Philippine travel companies (i.e., resorts, hotels, ground handlers, airlines, DOT regional offices) from Metro Manila, Bataan, Batangas, Pampanga, Subic, Palawan, Cebu and Bohol. There were 165 Japanese buyers who attended the B2B event, not only from Tokyo, but also from Shizuoka, Ibaraki, Yokohama and Hokkaido, he added.

Romulo Puyat attended various meetings with important travel industry stakeholders in Japan, including officials of the influential Japan Association of Travel Agents.

A standing-room-only press conference also introduced the new DOT chief and the Philippine Tourism Fun Ambassadors.  Around 61 press people representing 36 Japanese media outfits attended the event, and were shown Hiro’s destination video of Coron, Palawan and Loveli’s destination video of Bohol.

This year the PBM featured a Philippine Experience Zone to highlight the destinations of the country with fun, interactive and experiential activities.

In the evening, some 300 delegates from the Philippines and Japan travel industry, as well as Japanese media, attended the Philippine Reception led by Romulo Puyat and Philippines Tourism Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V. “Networking between the Philippine private sector and their Japanese counterparts continued in a relaxed and fun setting,” said Bengzon.

The venue was bedecked in colorful arangyas or chandeliers inspired by the Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon.  The buffet spread featured some iconic Philippine dishes like Tuna Kinilaw, Tortang Talong, Kare-Kare, Adobo and Pansit and desserts such as fresh tropical fruits and mango pastries.

The evening’s entertainment program was hosted by Japan-based Filipino celebrity Ma. Teresa Gow and DOT Japan’s Yasuhiko Yokoyama, and featured mostly Japan-based Filipino talents including the Philippine Cultural Troupe of the Tokyo Gaidai University, Last Call, Krissha, Loveli, Sharmaine Animas and the Philippine All Stars.