In an exclusive interview, SanJeet, tourism attaché, Philippines Tourism Marketing Office, India spoke to Steena Joy on the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Manila and the Department of Tourism (DOT) Philippines’ strategy for the India market
Manila will be hosting ATF 2016 in January 2016. What will this mean for DOT Philippines?
The DOT Philippines is honoured and proud of the Philippines hosting ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2016. With the theme, One Community for Sustainability, the 35th edition of this forum will launch the new ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016 – 2020. The plan will work towards not only the development and growth of the region’s tourism, but also in ensuring that this growth is grounded on responsible, sustainable, and inclusive tourism.
Manila’s Entertainment City will be home to key ATF activities including the three-day TRAVEX travel trade mart from January 20 to 22, 2016. This gaming and entertainment district is one of Manila’s latest attractions and features the capital’s premier SMX Convention Center and a selection of the world’s top hospitality brands such as Conrad, City of Dreams, Solaire and Resorts World, all conveniently located within walking distance of one another. The Manila Eye, a gigantic ferris wheel observatory, is also a part of the district’s iconic landscape.
The Philippines is all set to welcome the delegates and we are hopeful that beyond the conference walls of this gathering, the visitors will experience the country’s diverse heritage, culture, beauty and the warmth of the Filipino people. While this forum will allow for the exchange of ideas for the progress of respective economies, we hope that these meetings will build stronger friendships between ASEAN countries.
Has there been an increase in tourist traffic from India to Philippines?
The Philippines has recorded a growth of 40.54 per cent in visitor arrivals from India in October 2015, a remarkable surge over the previous year. During 2015, January-October, 61,155 Indian tourists travelled to the Philippines, recording an increase of 24.13 per cent.
What has been the response in India market to ATF 2016? How many buyers from India will attend ATF 2016?
The response from India has been good this time. About 22 hosted buyers will be attending from India. The ATF returns to the Philippines for the 35th edition of the event. Host city Manila – the country’s capital of fun and gateway to the rest of the Philippines – is all set to welcome some 1,600 international delegates including ministerial officials, exhibitors, buyers, media and other travel industry professionals from some 50 countries for the week-long event.
How does India figure in the DOT Philippines’ tourism market strategy?
The India market has continued to be one of the important contributors of international visitors to the Philippines. India has jumped up to the 12th position for tourist arrivals in the Philippines in September 2015 and is consistently maintaining the position in the top 12 markets.
The consistent growth in Indian tourist arrivals could be attributed to the marketing efforts and participation of the country in travel trade fairs like SATTE, OTM, ICWF, Vkonect and GPS-Nagpur. In 2015, we held a four-city roadshow for our travel trade partners based in Nagpur, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Delhi. The objective of these B2B sessions was to educate and update them about Philippines’ existing and new tourism product offerings and to aid them while planning itineraries and handling customer queries. DOT Philippines along with a 15-member delegation interacted with over 400 key travel and tour operators, MICE and up-market leisure operators.
The DOT Philippines recently organised familiarisation trips for Indian wedding planners and showcased wedding destinations and venues like Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Manila, wherein they got to experience the nuances of how weddings can be organised at various hotels and venues. We want to leverage on our tourism product offerings and attract the Indian traveller to achieve our target of 100,000 tourist arrivals by 2017.
As a part of its marketing development strategy, the DOT Philippines has recently branded 100 radio cabs in Mumbai. Rajshree Birla, consul general (A.H), Consulate General of Republic of Philippines inaugurated the campaign on December 7, 2015. Hundred BEST buses in Mumbai were also branded with the Philippines logo in partnership with Kesari Tours. Our focus is to promote the Philippines as a leisure, luxury, wedding and MICE destination. We are undertaking aggressive marketing initiatives promoting the exotic destinations of the Philippines in the India market. In addition, Indian travellers holding any of the valid and current AJACSSUK visas (US, Japan, Australia, Canada, Schengen, Singapore and UK) are allowed visa free entry into the Philippines for a period of 14 days, from all international airports and seaports.
2016 is another banner year as the DOT Philippines has just launched the Visit the Philippines Again (VPA) 2016 campaign. It is a retail-based campaign to drive urgency and excitement among foreign travellers to visit the Philippines and return in 2016 for more fun, friendship, feel-good adventures, and fabulous memories to cherish.
We will start our marketing initiatives by participating in trade shows in India.Our strategy will also include sales blitz and roadshows in Pune (February 22, 2016) and Ahmedabad (February 24, 2016) in the first quarter. Some of the other initiatives include FAM trips for wedding planners, trade partners and an exclusive educational workshop for ‘Philippines Specialists’ in the Philippines. We will also be focusing on tactical advertising with our travel partners and will focus on consumer promotions.