Philippines takes innovative tack to tourism promotion

TPB wants to promote the country's festivals to tourists; pictured, Festival Dinagyang in Iloilo

The Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPB) will turn feasts and festivals into regular celebrations as well as craft a tourism icon to complement its stronger thrust in consumer and digital marketing – all part of its effort to offer more “innovative activities” to tourists.

Explaining the new direction, TPB’s COO Cesar Montano, told TTG Asia that tourism efforts must evolve with the times, especially as “everything is going digital”.

“But no amount of online promotions will help if there are no activities on the ground,” he added.

TPB wants to promote the country’s festivals to tourists; pictured, Festival Dinagyang in Iloilo

The country’s colourful and unique feasts and festivals will be “institutionalised” to ensure that they are held regularly with government and private sector support, which will in turn enable them to become part of tour packages that travel agents can sell.

There will be monthly themes, beginning with a culinary festival in April which will be experienced by a fam trip for up to 40 bloggers from around the world, in time for Madrid Fusion Manila 2018 and Philippine Tourism Exchange.

Montano also shared that since the Philippine tourism image is “so chop suey”, an icon will be chosen to represent the destination, similar to what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia and Statue of Liberty is to New York.

He pointed out that for ASEAN’s 50th anniversary last year, member states featured manmade attractions as their national landmarks while the Philippines’ was the eagle.

Another “innovation” is the cross selling of regional tourist destinations, hardware and packages. For instance, those in Luzon can be sold also in Visayas and Mindanao and vice versa.

TPB’s stronger investment in digital marketing and online promotions will mean a less prominent presence at travel trade shows.

“We’re partnering with Agoda, TravelAdvisor, etc. That is (our) direction, coupled with more efforts in consumer activation,” Montano explained.

In a separate interview on the Philippines’ past year performance and outlook for 2018, tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr said the destination “managed to insulate ourselves from the whiplash of travel advisory” as foreign arrivals in the first 10 months of 2017 registered an 11.5 per cent year-on-year growth.

The double-digit growth, higher than the ASEAN and global single-digit average growth, was partly the result of a strategy targeting opportunity markets when some of the destination’s biggest source markets – which generate close to 70 per cent of total arrivals – were hit.

Bengzon explained that while these opportunity markets are “relatively low-based”, their combined performance “is able to mitigate the downturn in major markets”.

Bengzon expects 2018 to be another growth year as the Department of Tourism intensifies international marketing and networking activities with airlines, cruise planners and other industry players. The department is also maintaining its support of charter flights from other countries; expanding the product portfolio with new destinations and attractions; and ensuring that the competencies of hospitality frontliners will be on par with the rest of Asia.

He added that the Philippines is also targeting the promising markets of Turkey and Israel as it expands its geographical footprint.

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