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Tourism department eyeing Europeans to boost local tourism

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: The Department of Tourism has started tourism promotion efforts in luring a new market into the Philippines, particularly those from Russia and Europe, so as to level off the expected thinning of visitors from nearby Asian countries brought about by the international financial meltdown.


Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said that the country is now offering new high-value tour packages, like sports and adventure, medical, culture, education, shopping, ecology and nature tourism, which includes bird watching, among other things.


He said that through this, they hope to lure people from Russia and European countries.


Robert Lim Joseph, chairman emeritus of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas) said that such is understandable and laudable, considering the declining arrival of tourists from Asian neighbors such as Japan and Korea, which are hurting from the international financial crisis.


Joseph said it was only recently discovered that the Philippines has many rare varieties of birds, which are sought after by nature lovers in Europe, particularly Britons. These birds are in Candaba, Pampanga, for example.


He said many Europeans are delighted to discover that many high-end fashion items are much cheaper here than in their own countries or in nearby Asian places because of the low store rental here.


Joseph also said the Philippines, with its artisans, can also offer locally made fashion jewelry provided import taxes for raw gold, platinum, diamonds, etc. are lowered.


He said he has suggested this to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu, by putting up jewelry making in the province’s export processing zone.


But Joseph said the country is not neglecting traditional markets by targeting those who are 55 years old and over because they have the money, unlike the young who rely on their parents or on credit for travel money.


He said the government is also intensifying campaign to bring retirees, with their pension funds, into country so the foreign guests stay much longer.


Joseph said the government is developing new destinations, which include Cebu, Bohol, Bacolod and Dumaguete City.


He said that the government is doing it share by allowing those with investments of $20,000 to be given business visas and those with $50,000 and who employ at least eight Filipino workers to be given permanent resident visa.


Even local government, like governors and mayors of many places, are pitching in to promote tourism in their localities, Joseph said.


He cited Marikina, not a tourist spot, which was able to attract 350,000 local tourists a year because of cleanliness, peace and order, and wholesome entertainment, in addition to offering locally made shoes.


For their part, the local travel agencies and tour operators are intensifying culture of tourism, which seeks to develop awareness of the value of tourism and in their role in promoting it, in connection with the program to bring tourism to the countryside, Joseph said.-- Francis Earl A Cueto

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