Philippines ought to double down on Chinese market, say tourism experts

Instead of being complacent about the growth in inbound Chinese arrivals, industry stakeholders are urging the Philippine government to maintain the market’s upward trajectory by continuing its marketing and promotion efforts in China, while improving tourism infrastructure on the homefront.

“The whole world is knocking on China’s door and countries like Malaysia and Thailand have big (marketing) budgets for China. But while the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT) recognises that China is a huge market, it doesn’t send high-level delegations to tradeshows in China,” a travel consultant who declined to be named noted.

Tourism stakeholders want the Philippine government to step up efforts to woo more Chinese travellers; Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines pictured

The DoT reported that Chinese arrivals jumped 39 per cent during the January-August 2019 period, edging out Japan and the US as the country’s biggest source market second only to South Korea.

In view of strong regional competition for the Chinese tourism dollar, Paul So, managing director of Great Sights Travel and Tours, warned that the Philippines should take a proactive stance in wooing visitors from China, especially against a more challenging global economy outlook.

Aside from leisure travel, Mary Ann Ong of Bridges Travel and Tours general manager inbound, hopes that the Philippines will be able to crack the MICE market from China.

“MICE is our strength. We need more MICE groups to balance quantity and quality,” Ong remarked.

However, Ong pointed out that although the Philippines has no lack of destinations, many still do not have adequate tourism infrastructure.
She said: “Bohol, for instance, is already a strong market but you could count the number of buses available during the peak season.” Ong also warned that Palawan cannot be heavily “pushed as a destination” as the buses in Puerto Princesa cannot be brought to outlying provinces because of narrow roads.

“Charter flights from China can also only land in Puerto Princesa, because Busuanga and El Nido have short runways,” Ong lamented.

Meanwhile, Great Sights’ So opined that more tourism dollars can be earned from the Chinese market if more quality products are developed.
“We have high-quality hand-made handicrafts, as well as agricultural and fisheries products, but we need more diversified products, and more outlets and showrooms for them,” he said.

And as beaches remain the main attraction for the Philippines, Reynel Pick, Performance Travel’s hotel inbound reservations officer, said Boracay remains the company’s top destination for Chinese tourists, followed by Cebu and Bohol.

Many Chinese also tend to come to the Philippines especially during the Golden Week in October, said Pick, which would be a good opportunity to capture travellers too.

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