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ME tourist traffic to Philippines on ascendancy in 2012
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod February 09, 2013
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DUBAI: The number of Middle East tourists to the Philippines has increased, according to 2012 records furnished to The Gulf Today. With this, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Grace Relucio Princesa wants overseas Filipinos to know more about their country so they could encourage more visitors and even tourism investors.

 “We could promote our country better as the tourism destination if we ourselves know very well what we have in our respective barrios, towns, cities and provinces,” she said.

Meanwhile, at a birthday party in Dubai on Sunday evening, was a discussion on what is unique in every Philippine town.

Erwin de Guzman from San Pablo, Laguna mentioned of the seven enchanted lakes in his hometown, one of which has an underwater cave.

There are chances as well for promenaders to sight a tree which had grown directly from the lake bed and folks believe the body of water was formed out of a crater ages ago.  

A Sharjah resident shared her experience about Negros Oriental province being blessed with over 100 caves, many with rivers in them that provide additional adventures for spelunkers.  

She also spent some time at an island prettier than Boracay and well-known among European scuba divers.

Princesa also believes the entry of Cebu Pacific (CEB), to service the region’s residents via Manila and Dubai from October, would “enhance” interest in the Philippines.

 “I hope CEB will enhance and entice more Filipinos to bring more of their friends to our country,” she said.

It was announced a fortnight ago that the low-cost carrier would be having its inaugural flight to Dubai on October 7, 2013 and many Filipinos in the Philippines and in the UAE had expressed excitement.

It was at the “18th World Route Development Strategy Summit” in Abu Dhabi in October 2011, that Philippine Assistant Secretary for International Marketing Promotions Benito Bengzon Jr. had told this reporter, about the conclusion of talks between authorities of the entry of CEB and possibly of the Philippine Air Lines in the UAE.

A CEB management statement obtained by this reporter said the daily flights would   depart from  Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 4:40pm and leave Dubai International Airport at 11:10pm “Dubai is the largest long-haul market to and from the Philippines, so CEB is proud to be the only Philippine carrier to fly direct between Manila and Dubai,” said CEB-Long Haul Division general manager Alex Reyes.

 “More than 70 per cent of passengers on this route take multiple stops and connecting flights, so we definitely look forward to serving this market,” he also said.

CEB had purchased eight new wide-body Airbus A330-300 400-seater all-economy aircraft for the 36th international route.

On the 2012 Philippine tourism data, records showed that from a total of 57,275 tourists from the Middle East, 30,040 were from Saudi Arabia; 12,684, UAE; 4,877, Kuwait; 3,771, Qatar; 3,528, Bahrain; 1,619, Egypt; and 756, Jordan.

In 2010, tourism arrival from the region was at 46,811 with residents from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait at the top three.

Philippine Tourism Office-Middle East (PTO-ME) representative Mohamad Masri said: “We are very enthusiastic about the growing interest from this part of the world. More Arab tourists are looking to the country beyond Manila to explore the amazing islands which offer best leisure getaways.

“We expect to achieve better growth for this year as more flights are being launched by both the region’s national airlines as well as the Philippine carriers,” he added.

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