Philippine travel firms look to China, Taiwan to fill HK gap

THE PHILIPPINES is courting China and Taiwan more aggressively as it seeks to recover from the nearly two-year-old travel ban issued by the Hong Kong government.

A resorts operator in the Visayas, who did not want to be named, said it was targeting group and FIT buyers in China and Taiwan to fill the gap left by a diminishing Hong Kong market, which used to comprise 30 per cent of its total business.

The company is emphasising to the Chinese and Taiwanese markets that the Philippines is a safe destination, especially with additional security measures in place, such as the creation of the Philippine National Police Crisis Action Force.

A Manila travel company, which also requested anonymity, said a positive development is the relaxation of visa policies later this year, which will allow senior citizens to stay in the Philippines for six months while giving them certain discount privileges.

Another welcome move is the extension of visa-free stays for tourists from 166 countries, including China and Taiwan, from 21 days to 30 days.

Still, the Philippines’ blacklist status continues to be a challenge for travel experts hoping to sell the destination.

Ken Chang, vice president, Associated Tours Hong Kong, and honorary secretary/treasurer, Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents, said leisure traffic had dropped by 30 to 40 per cent following the incident.

“Insurance companies also refuse to cover any form of travel to the Philippines because of the travel advisory,” he added.

Read more in TTG Asia May 4, 2012

Additional reporting by Brian Higgs

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