Philippines takes tourism promotion beyond fun in the sun with heritage-centric campaign

Ferdinand Magellan Shrine, Cebu City, Philippines

In 2019, the Philippines’ history will receive greater attention as the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) lines up a series of heritage-focussed activities, a departure from the more popular sun, sand and sea highlights.

Taking the spotlight is a two-year campaign entitled Philippines500, Celebration of Quincentennial Circumnavigation of the World. It will run till 2021, which will coincide with the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines.

Ferdinand Magellan Shrine, Cebu City, Philippines

TPB’s 2019 work programme obtained indicated that the campaign will target “global mainstream markets” including millennials, foodies and balikbayans (Filipinos residing abroad)”. The goal is to “boost awareness of the Philippines and entice other Spanish-speaking (tourists) to visit” the only Spanish-speaking nation in South-east Asia.

TPB will also showcase the 75th anniversary of American general Douglas MacArthur’s landing in Leyte which saw the Allied forces winning the largest naval battle in history, ending the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II (WWII), in October this year.

This marketing push given to Philippine’s colonial history has been well received in the country’s travel trade.

Rajah Travel’s chairman and president Aileen Clemente said that historical milestones are a big tourist draw, and suggested “(identifying) significant events in the Philippines and (planning for) it several years down the road”.

Rajah Travel is one of a handful of agencies that offer itineraries centred around WWII’s events. Its Salute To Valor: WWII Tales of Courage tour – which started in 2015 – highlights the historical value of Palawan and its role in WWII.

New offerings this year include the Calamian Islands (including Coron whose Bay has 11 Japanese shipwrecks); the former leper colony of Culion; and wildlife sanctuary with African animals, Calauit.

Celebrate TLC’s managing director-operations Simon Ang said: “We need to make people realise that we are more than beaches, sun and sea.” He added that Binondo (Manila’s Chinatown), the oldest and biggest in the world, is another historic area that could highlighted.

One of the first to package tours to Binondo, Ivan Man Dy – founder of Old Manila Walks – will take things a step further by bringing tourists from Hong Kong and China this February on a tour that coincides with the Manila Art Deco Weekend.

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