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Philippines favoured tourist destination among Emiratis
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod August 27, 2014
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Dubai: Interest about the Philippines as a tourism destination that consequently leads to actual visits by Middle East residents and particularly those of Middle East origins is increasing.

“The follow-ups from this year’s ATM (Arabian Travel Mart) and enquiries about our country are more solid now,” Marsman Drysdale Travel Inc.-HRG Philippines In-Bound sales manager Michael Charles Kipping told The Gulf Today, in a recent interview in Makati City, Metro Manila.

He said that while it used to be “three bookings for three Emirati families,” it is now 15 families.

Average length of stay in Metro Manila and other provincial destinations is between seven and 10 days.

“I know of a tour operator whose clients are the royal families from the region,” Kipping added.

This was boosted by a claim of a senior staff of the world-class Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa in Sabang, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that among its frequent guests are the nobility of the Middle East.

The sprawling beach front establishment is a 30-minute boat ride away from one of the Seven Nature Wonders of the World, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Underground River Cave and Protected Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Ark Travel Express Inc. president Maria Paz Alberto, when interviewed in Makati City, said Middle East clients are normally couples or in groups of a maximum of 10 persons.

“They prefer five-star accommodations and go for two nights in Metro Manila and three nights in the provinces,” she said.

As of now the primary provincial tourism destinations are Bicol, Bohol, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Cebu and Palawan.

Included in the list are Cavite with its Tagaytay City where the world’s smallest volcano, Taal Volcano is situated and Aklan with its Boracay Island known as Asia’s 24/7 beach party place.

“We are now seeing a growing interest in our country from the Gulf. Although 80 per cent are still the expatriates, the locals are already considering the Philippines as a holiday destination,” Manila’s Department of Tourism (DoT)-Market Development Group-Tourism Development Sector director Verna Covar-Buensuceso, said in a chance interview in Davao City, Davao del Sur.

The formation of a consortium of eight Philippine-based tour operators to promote the country as an ideal place for the Eid holidays was repeatedly mentioned in all of the separate interviews.

The tie-up between the DoT and the private companies was conceptualised to reinforce the improving awareness of Middle East residents of the Philippines as a tourism destination.

It is officially known as the “Kids Go Free” campaign, which for this year runs until October 2014.

It spans for six nights and seven days at which two children per family below age 11 enjoy on a complimentary basis a wide variety of activities, food and accommodations.

“We want to attract more tourists from the Middle East and we have come up with this package,” said Buensuceso.

It would be repeated and improved in the coming Eid holidays in the years to come, she added.

DoT assistant secretary Benito Bengzon Jr said, “We launched this campaign exclusively for families from the Middle East to encourage them to experience the value, friendliness, excitement and fun our country has to offer, positioning the Philippines as a “top of mind” holiday destination especially for the upcoming Eid Al Adha.

According to Kipping, the entry of the Philippine Air Lines and Cebu Pacific Air into the Middle East market and specifically in the UAE has helped increase tourism awareness in the Philippines.

“The DoT is more active now in promoting our country in the region as a tourism destination,” he added.

Middle East visitors to the Philippines in 2013 were at 68,916 or 20 per cent more than in 2012.

Leading visitors were from Saudi Arabia at 38,969 and the UAE at 15,155.

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