A few years ago it was not a common name on the Indian travel trade map, let alone the tourists’ radar, but thanks to the Department of Tourism’s relentless campaign and networking with the B2B industry through its India office, the Philippines is now on many travel agents’ and tour operators’ selling list.
Crescent-shaped beaches dusted with powder-like sand; uninhabited tropical islands, lush jungles bristling with unique wildlife, the soaring skyline of the capital Manila, historic cities, diverse local cuisine and culture – the Philippines has all of these and more to showcase to the Indian outbound tourists. There are 7,107 islands of this vibrant archipelago where English is widely spoken; the people are extremely humble yet fun loving and life moves to a lilting beat.
To enhance and capitalise the increasing interest among the agents and key media about the destination, which is still working on a direct flight to India, the Department of Tourism (DOT), Philippines, organised an exhaustive Focus Philippines programme by the sunny and sandy beach-side of Goa, where more than 120 top agents from all over India gathered to increase their knowledge of the destination and its various tourism products.
Teresita C Daza, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines said, “Focus Philippines was a good opportunity for different stakeholders in the tourism industry in the Philippines to interact with travel operators in India. It was also a good opportunity from both the sides to actually see what packages can be presented and promoted highlighting different attractions in the Philippines.”
Over 20 exhibitors from the Philippines came along with the DOT that included DOT’s regional offices, Philippines Airlines, other international carriers, top hotels, attractions, integrated resorts, destination management companies, ground handlers, transport companies and MICE suppliers.
Dakila F Gonzales, head, Office of Product and Market Development – India, Department of Tourism Philippines commented, “The inspiration behind the creation of the event was the huge increase in tourist arrivals of Indian nationals to the Philippines. In 2017, we had reached almost 107,000 arrivals, with a growth of 22 pc and this growth is being sustained. We have realised that there is a further potential to increase this growth. Therefore, we want to stay committed to our current partners, giving them more knowledge on new segments of Philippines tourism.”
MICE & Weddings
Over the last couple of years, DOT Philippines has been actively promoting the archipelago not only as a holiday destination but also for luxury, MICE, weddings and small group travel. Destinations such as Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan and Davao have been intensely promoted in the recent years.
“Focus Philippines helped the travel operators in doing exclusive, one-on-one meetings and gain a better insight on the destination which will enable them to further customise their product offerings, based on exhibitor inputs, thereby taking Indian arrivals to the Philippines to the next level,” said Sajan Gupta, managing director of Vayu Seva, a leading outbound operator from Kolkata.
Philippines’ plan for the current year include helping travel agents understand and therefore promote the country as an ideal tourist destination with a sharp focus on the theme of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”; focusing on direct air connectivity between India and the Philippines; promoting Philippines as a leisure, wedding and MICE destination and taking aggressive marketing initiatives to promote exotic destinations of Philippines in the Indian market.
“MICE segment has shown significant growth in the past years in the Philippines. The growing interest in MICE, especially incentive trips has been phenomenal over the recent months. MICE and business travel are definitely the areas that will boost outbound travel from India. Focus Philippines will help the MICE agents to interact with the suppliers and execute the big events in a more efficient manner in the coming days,” said Riaz Munshi, managing director, N Chirag Travels another leading outbound operator from New Delhi.
Destination weddings are also gaining a good deal of traction in the Indian market as is a segment which is growing rapidly as more and more people are opting to tie the knot at exotic locations. Overall, the preference of Indian travellers, in both leisure and MICE segments, is veering towards more experiential trips and exploring niche destinations – nightlife, shopping, more niche customised offerings have also prevailed as emerging trends.
Visa & Connectivity
The 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 & seaports. The apex level discussions are also going on to start direct flights connecting Manila with Mumbai and or New Delhi. As India has jumped up to the 12th position in terms of the largest international source market for the Philippines, the DOT Philippines plans to undertake extensive trade and promotional activities to ensure continued growth from the sub-continent, majorly in India.