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Philippines and Austria strengthen tourism ties for mutual growth

Meeting with Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and Austrian State Secretary for Tourism Susanne Kraus-Winkler in Vienna, Austria
Meeting with Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and Austrian State Secretary for Tourism Susanne Kraus-Winkler in Vienna, Austria

Philippines aims to boost tourism from Austria, citing an 89% recovery rate in visitor arrivals and discussing a Memorandum of Tourism Cooperation.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – The Philippines is strengthening its tourism ties with Austria, in a bid to capture more visitors from this emerging European source market.

On the invitation of the Austrian State Secretary for Tourism, Philippines Department of Tourism (PDOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, engaged in a working visit to Susanne Kraus-Winkler in Vienna, Austria, to explore ways to further strengthen the relations between the two nations, particularly on tourism.

Secretary Frasco noted the huge opportunity in the Austrian market, citing the impressive 89 percent recovery rate of visitor arrivals from Austria to the Philippines in 2023 at 13,180, vis-à-vis the 14,840 arrivals recorded in 2019 pre-COVID-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, the Filipino community makes up the largest Asian community in Austria, with approximately 30,000 Filipinos, and as many as 60,000 Filipino-Austrian nationals.

During the meeting held at the sidelines of ITB Berlin 2024, Secretary Frasco reiterated the intent of the Philippines to pursue a Memorandum of Tourism Cooperation with Austria that will mutually grow the tourism numbers of the two countries, exchange best practices in culture, heritage, and retirement tourism, strengthen sustainable tourism frameworks and upskilling programs in hospitality, and facilitate the enhanced connectivity between the Philippines and Austria.

Following our discussions in Manila during your visit last year, we wish to reiterate the interest of the Philippines to sign a Memorandum of Tourism Cooperation to formalize our efforts to benchmark best tourism practices on sustainable tourism, enhance our people-to-people exchanges, and further enhance our frameworks on human capital development, among others,” said Secretary Frasco.

We acknowledge the opportunity to strengthen the market; we also wish to maximize the opportunity to educate and inform Austrians about our tourism products in the Philippines which are of great interest to Europeans including our beaches, dive sites, adventure offerings, and experiential travel across our islands and among our diverse communities,” the Tourism Chief tells her Austrian counterpart. Secretary Frasco also took the opportunity to share the Department of Tourism’s nationwide program to train Filipino tourism workers in the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence with over 126,000 trained in 2023 alone; as well as to discuss the country’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Program with the Philippines ranking among the top 5 providers of this tourism product worldwide.

According to Secretary Kraus-Winkler, the largest employment sectors for Filipinos in Austria “are in tourism and care,” with almost a quarter of the Filipino diaspora in Austria currently working in the tourism sector.

Secretary Kraus-Winkler likewise broached the conclusion of a “working holiday program” provided for in the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Manila between the Austrian and Philippine Governments in October 2023.

Tourism generally benefits from working holiday programs, as young people want to gain experience in tourism worldwide. Experience has shown that young people often also want to explore the country where they are working and go on vacation during their stay of up to one year. We want to further expand the good cooperation between Austria and the Philippines in the field of tourism and promote the mobility of young people. We are looking forward to the talks on the rapid implementation of a working holiday program, as we were recently able to conclude with the USA,” said Secretary Kraus-Winkler.

Working holiday programs combine vacations with practical work experience abroad to enable young people to finance part of their stay abroad. Through this program, they can enter into temporary employment arrangements in the destination country and also make use of educational institutions.

The “workation” program is aimed at people aged between 18 and 30 years old who want to broaden their understanding of other countries and cultures. Foreign language skills are an important aspect of a successful start to working life abroad.

The discussions between the tourism leaders also tackled concerns on sustainability and the pivotal role of digitalization of tourism on the economies of the Philippines and Austria.

We express our profound gratitude for your graciousness in receiving the Philippine delegation. In line with the vision of our President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to promote a tourism industry that is sustainable, inclusive, and resilient, we are here to learn from your vast experience in the implementation of sustainability practices; likewise, we wish to know more about your government’s mechanisms for supporting sustainable tourism infrastructure, noting your government’s experiences and expertise on the said matter,” said Secretary Frasco.

Also present in the meeting were Adrian Gasser of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy and Arnulf Gressl of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. Meanwhile, the Secretary was joined by Philippine Ambassador to Austria Evangelina Lourdes Arroyo-Bernas, Deputy Speaker Duke Frasco, DOT OIC-Undersecretary Verna C. Buensuceso, and DOT-Frankfurt Tourism Attaché Dakila Gonzales.

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