Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr (Philippines Secretary of Tourism): Four hundred international and fifty domestic buyers are expected to participate in ATF 2016
H.E. Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr, Philippines Secretary of Tourism talks about the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2016 and about the efforts of the Philippine Department of Tourism (PDOT) to increase the number of visitors in Philippines.
What are the key points in promoting the Philippines for ATF 2016?
Ramon R. Jimenez: The new Philippines: PH’s rising competitiveness. Playing host to the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) for the fourth time is the perfect opportunity to show the new Philippines, which the international community alternatively calls, ‘Asia’s New Tiger’, ‘Asia’s Bright Spot’, and ‘The Next Asian Miracle’. The Philippines that first played host to ATF in 1987 and subsequently in 1998 and 2006 has gone far, and has now entered a new era marked by strong growth and potential.
PH Tourism, a league of its own: A Partner for Growth. ATF Philippines 2016 should also banner the many successes of our country’s tourism, now one of the major industries in the Philippines under the Aquino Administration. Its total value or size of Php 982.4 billion and 7.8% share of the country’s economy is unprecedented. Getting tourism recognized as one of the sectors at the top of the national economic agenda is certainly a huge feat. Today, Philippines’ tourism industry is the 5th growth driver of the country’s economy. Since the entry of a national leadership that believes in tourism as key to inclusive growth, it has become an important pillar of this government administration’s core objective of good governance.
On a micro-level, ATF Philippines 2016 looks forward to the adoption of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 as spearheaded by the Philippines. On the same occasion, the ASEAN Member States will unveil the Southeast Asia Cruise Brand for 2016 and convene the biennial ASEAN Green Hotel Standards Award and the first ever ASEAN Homestay Award. The ATF Philippines 2016 is also very fortunate to have in attendance international organizations such as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and ASEAN Region Employer to tackle Tourism Careers in ASEAN.
What can the buyers expect during ATF 2016? And how many buyers are you expecting to be attending ATF 2016?
R.J.: The ATF 2016 is a major turning point for Philippine tourism by bringing focus on several ‘treasure product’ innovations to suit newer markets and target groups. The buyers are expected to participate in two full days of one-to-one appointments with industry international and local buyers, conduct business, and provide networking opportunities based on their specific business objectives. Four hundred (400) international buyers from different parts of the world and fifty (50) domestic buyers are expected to participate in this much awaited event in 2016.
In 2016, we believe that you will be continuing with the successful Visit Philippines Year campaign. What will be different in 2016?
R.J.: When the Philippine Department of Tourism (PDOT) declared 2016 as Visit the Philippines Year Again (VPA 2016), we only had one thing in mind: to cement the Philippines’ reputation as a ‘must-experience’ destination in Asia. And we are claiming it along with our promise of more fun as 2016 becomes our Year of Agains.
Travelers will not run out of reasons to visit the Philippines this year. They should choose the Philippines because we assure them that they are off to a complete travel experience in what media giants Conde Nast Traveller, New York’s Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, and TripAdvisor.com among others, consider as “one of the most beautiful and most exciting places to visit” in the world.
Together with the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPBPHL), we have lined up many different activities for every persuasion. A full calendar of international events, which are all slated to happen in the country, awaits tourists in the Philippines. From festivals to musicals, to gastronomical, cultural and historical, there is no reason not to include the Philippines in one’s bucket list.
Visit the Philippines Again 2016. We assure our new and returning/repeat visitors they will find the Philippines one of the most progressive, youngest and most inclusive societies in the 21st century. 2016 will see why the rest of the world has pivoted to our side of the globe. We are the ‘Next Big Thing’ in Asian travel, with the world now referring to us alternatively as the ‘New Asian Tiger’, ‘Asia’s Bright Spot’ and the ‘The Next Asian Miracle’.
Experience a more visual Philippines. Experience the Philippines, not one way, not two ways, but as a multi-level destination. From north to south, east to west, the Philippines is by itself a multi-city, multi-experience destination. Have the best of both worlds—the urban experience in our pulsating cityscapes and the rustic charm of the countryside in less than three hours by road, a little more by plane, and a few hours by sea. Also, we will feature special incentives for repeat visitors that offer discounts on flights, accommodations, tours, and other packages.
How could the Philippines capture more of the cruising market, as this market has the strongest growth?
R.J.: The Philippine Department of Tourism (PDOT) has geared up its promotion of the country as a destination for the once Europe-and-US-dominated lucrative cruise ship market, seeing strong interest from international cruise lines increasing their ports of call and expanding visits to more islands in the country.
Our country’s proximity to major cruise source markets like China, Japan and Hong Kong positions us at a competitive and comparative advantage in the Asia-Pacific region. It is interesting to note that the number of cruise calls has increased dramatically from only 10 vessel calls in 2011 to a total of 54 recorded in 2014. And this year, there are already 66 cruise calls scheduled.
The ongoing development of the Cruise Tourism Development Strategy seeks to provide a blueprint for positioning the Philippines as a major cruise destination in Asia and the Pacific. Interface with the Philippine Department of Transportation and Communication (PDOTC) has already started, particularly in developing the country’s major ports of entry. We are one with the Department of Transport and Communications (DOTC) and other government and private sectors in attaining a common goal: to enhance cruise experience and for our tourists to enjoy what the country has to offer.
Convergence with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (PDFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on the implementation of the API-PNR system in time for ASEAN 2015 is another step forward in our goal of capturing more of the cruising market. The API-PNR System aims to address passenger mobility, targeting convenient, hassle-free and seamless tourist experience of bona fide and legitimate travelers.
How is the Philippines able to collaborate better with ASEAN to capture more visitors?
R.J.: In addition to the Philippine participation in travel fairs in the ASEAN region, the Philippines continues its collaboration with ASEAN-related marketing programs and activities as well as product development and implementation of ASEAN programs geared towards a strengthened regional tourism industry. Our lines of communication with other countries from ASEAN are always open for cooperation and sharing vital information for mutual growth. In the end, it is the common goal of achieving sustainable tourism development through a responsible ASEAN economic community.
The Philippines has also initiated joint promotion of a particular local destination plus an ASEAN tourist attraction, as part of the larger goal of making ASEAN a single tourism destination. The country has likewise been actively involved in initiatives of the ASEAN Promotional Chapter on Tourism (APCT) in Australia and India. Among the continuing projects of APCT Australia are the production of a mini magazine on food, the management of Webjet, a digital platform to promote ASEAN destinations, the Intrepid project that invites bloggers to write about the adventure travel opportunities in the region and the National Tourism Industry Awards Night which gives distinction to National Tourism Organizations (NTOs).
The Philippines certainly takes pride in hosting the 35th edition of ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) embracing the vision and mission of the ASEAN with strong position in meeting the challenges of tourism. The Philippine government works together with various local government units and private sectors from different provinces of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, including committed tourism prime movers and shakers, to draw on potential assets and resources and assert the country’s claims to be the rising tiger in the global tourism arena. ATF 2016’s theme “One Community for Sustainability” serves as a springboard for integration, solidarity, and unity as one single tourist destination and to build a strong competitive foothold in the global tourism market.