Philippine travel agencies are shifting their focus to the stable and robust outbound market as the inbound sector suffers a series of shocks, the most recent of which is the six-month closure of the island of Boracay beginning April 26.
Tellingly, the Network of Independent Travel and Allied Services Philippines (NITAS) will launch tour programmes for outbound and domestic markets only, but none for inbound.
Explaining the move, NITAS vice president Angel Ramos Bognot said that inbound business into the Philippines is currently poor and requires bigger investments in terms of attending foreign trade shows and producing marketing collaterals. Moreover, Boracay’s closure might cascade to other destinations, she pointed out.
Philippine agents diversifying to outbound is not a recent phenomenon as the inbound sector has for years been mired in challenges including safety and security perceptions, stiffer competition from OTAs and suppliers, as well as inadequate destination marketing and promotions.
Bognot, who is also president and managing director of Afro Asian Travel and Tours, said she used to have more inbound business but is now 50-50 with outbound, echoing the experience of a growing number of agencies diversifying into the brisk outbound sector.
Even agencies which previously were mainly handling inbound are making strides into the outbound sector. Said the manager of an agency added: “We used to have lots of inbound (business) but outbound is more stable and more reliable,” attributing this to heavy promotions by other countries, better air accessibility, and growing demand from the expanding Filipino middle class.
Meanwhile, business is bustling for outbound agencies in the country.
Adam’s Express Travel president Mamerth Banatin expects a 15 per cent surge in outbound business this year, from the 88 groups they sent abroad, mainly to Europe, in 2017. Repeat business is also high as those who travelled to Asia would explore mid-haul markets then opt for longhaul.
Laarni Yumul, manager at Royal Nordic Airline Services, which is the GSA of SAS/Iceland Air, also noted the brisk Philippine demand for sightings of the Aurora borealis in Scandinavia and in northern Europe fuelled by the healthy Philippine economy.
In addition, Turkish Airlines’ recently launched Manila-Istanbul route has become a new gateway to the Holy Land and Europe, said Arjun Shroff, managing director, Shroff International Travel Care Philippines.