Interview – Philippines Tourism Board

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Domingo Ramon C
Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll, COO of the Philippines Tourism Promotion Board

The Philippines Tourism Promotion Board (PTPB) has the hard task to promote the country to more foreign visitors. Inside Investor talked to the board’s down to earth COO Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll about the challenges of achieving this goal.

by Imran Saddique

Q: You worked in international markets like Tokyo, London etc previously what did you bring back from these assignments?

A: A lot of knowledge about these markets, information on how the Philippines should attract visitors from there. I gained a better capability to understand how the Philippines should respond to the needs of potential tourists. I understood how important communication is and that we should come up with platforms that are used today especially by the younger generation. When I was in London, I was very much exposed to digital marketing applications and I brought this knowledge back home to the Philippines.

Q: What will be the impact of typhoon Yolanda on tourism in the Philippines?

A: The Philippines experienced a significant increase in visitor numbers by the end of September 2013 compared to the previous year.  Despite the recent calamity, our aim is to surpass these numbers from 2012, which is in line with the target of 10 million tourists by 2016.

Q: How about tourism receipts?

A: We don’t have final figures for 2013 yet, but of course we want to focus more on increasing receipts rather than on just increasing numbers as receipts play a much bigger role for the economy, especially for communities. We want people to stay longer here, move around in the country and spend more on a day-to-day basis. At the moment, we are not maximising tourism receipts enough for the benefit of our communities which are engaged in tourism. But we have very strong targets in terms of receipts, job creation and contribution to GDP.

Q: Should the Philippines become a destination for long-term stay?

A: We see that tourists from long-haul markets tend to stay longer or come more frequently. They realise that the Philippines is a country with 7,000 islands which cannot be explored during a short stay. They either come back as repeat visitors or stay longer to see more of the country, and some also make the Philippines a base to visit the rest of Southeast Asia as air connections are good. We also have a huge overseas Filipino community, around 10 per cent of the population, who reside abroad but regularly come home and spend between three weeks and three months going around the country. That by itself is an indication of how we are a preferred destination for longer-staying and higher-spending visitors.

Q: Do you see areas of expansion? For example, in medical tourism?

A: To the point where people don’t have to rely on their medical insurance which not always covers treatment in the Philippines. In some cases, we have much better facilities here than other destinations in Southeast Asia, especially in Manila, and we are getting more and more players in the medical industry looking for tourists to come over and get treated.

Q: Would there be any direct cooperation between healthcare providers and tourism agencies?

A: On a case-to case-basis, we had cooperations with large medical facilities here in the Philippines. We did participate in promoting medical tourism, but the industry is also moving forward by itself and does not necessarily wait for government support as they have realised that medical tourism is a very potent market for their particular industry. Overseas Filipinos are also a huge market for them.

Q: In a nutshell: What’s special about the Philippines for tourists?

A: It’s clearly the people. We continue to highlight and showcase the unique selling proposition of the Philippines, which is its people. As the medical profession shows, Filipinos know how to take care. For example, in the UK there are a lot of Filipinos in the nursing profession, and many in the hospitality sector in the Middle East. Filipinos are very attentive to the needs of people, helpful to others, caring to the elderly. That’s part of the Filipino culture and hospitality. It’s genuine.

Q: What are currently the greatest challenges of boosting tourism numbers, apart from the typhoon?

A: It’s also about awareness creation. There is so much to appreciate in the Philippines that people are not aware of, so many places that we have to offer. We embarked on a global awareness campaign that aims at generating positive awareness about the Philippines, about its attractions instead of what’s in the news – a typhoon here and an earthquake there or some political issue. We invited key creative agencies, and they came up with the campaign “It’s more fun…” which best describes what to expect in the Philippines, Our people are hard-working but fun-loving, very religious but socially adaptable, they get along well with foreigners, they are dedicated to their families, they have good festivals and fiestas, they eat like there is no tomorrow – they are fun people to meet. That was the momentum to create this campaign. We interviewed tourists upon leaving how they perceived the Philippines, and many said they had a lot of fun – not fun that was manufactured by travel agencies, but genuine fun.  We held a press conference and invited 50 journalists and bloggers, and immediately the media and the Internet picked up the “It’s More Fun” campaign. Social media has one of the biggest communities in the Philippines, as people like to share information. They can’t live without Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – thus we were able to multiply our message on social media which created a snowball effect for the campaign. We started with three posters of “It’s more fun…”, and now we stand at about 60,000 as Filipinos themselves are creating them. It has become a people’s campaign.

Q: Infrastructure clearly needs to be improved, starting from Manila airport. What’s on the list?

A: We have a tourism coordination council, headed by the Department of Tourism, whose work involves all of the major agencies that have a stake in tourism. All of these infrastructure requirements have a place in the hierarchy of priorities that we have identified for tourism development, and certainly Manila airport is on the top of this list. However, the idea is to open or enlarge more airport hubs all over the country so that people don’t need to go through Manila but can go straight to places such as Boracay or Iloilo as their chosen destination. We have adapted certain policies which include an open skies policy that allows international carriers to fly directly to secondary destinations in the Philippines. For instance, Qatar Airways and Emirates are now flying directly to Clark, without any special licensing arrangements. This is part of decentralising arrival and departure points throughout the Philippines, as to not having just one main door but several windows as points of entry and exit.

Q: Which touristic regions are in the focus, which source markets are you looking at?

A: The idea is to develop hubs or clusters all over the Philippines under the national tourism development plan, and 26 of these have been identified. We are currently prioritising certain clusters which are already known internationally, beginning from the north – Laoag , Clark and Manila, then Daraga in Bicol, Iloilo, Kalibo, Cebu, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, as well as Lagindingan and Davao. As for source markets, we are looking at North Asia which is currently contributing the lion’s share of arrivals, for example South Korea with 1.2 million arrivals this year, and Japan as well as China, which both are strong markets for us. Second important source clusters are ASEAN and Asia-Pacific, with particular focus on Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, but we are also developing Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Q: How about Europe and the Middle East?

A: For sure, we want to develop these source markets, especially Europe. These markets are currently underutilised and under promoted, especially for longer-staying and higher-spending guests. Europe is very important in terms of creating much greater awareness.  The visit of more Europeans will auger the perception of the Philippines as a tourism destination.

Q: What areas can investors look at in terms of tourism development?

A: We have a government corporation called the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, or TIEZA, that provides incentives to foreign investors wishing to put up tourism projects here. In their mandate, they can grant incentives for investors with a focus on what we call tourism enterprise zones.  The incentives are currently being reviewed to make them more competitive and uniform with all other investments promotions agencies.

Q: Do you also see growth in the hospitality sector, such as hotels?

A: We are getting a lot more attention from the hospitality sector now, not just from hotels, but also from fully integrated resort complexes with gaming, dining, nightlife etc., for example the new Entertainment City that will be connected straightly from Manila airport through a skyway in the near future.

Q: Countries in Asia have used their cuisine to attract visitors. Would that be a possibility for the Philippines?

A: There is a lot about Filipino cuisine that is beginning to reach the consciousness of foodies, food critics and connoisseurs’ all over the world. We are now using it to a greater extent in our promotion efforts through different media channels. This is certainly one area of culture that we want to exploit.

Q: What would be your message to potential tourists who have no idea of the Philippines?

A: I’d say it’s a must visit destination. It’s the hospitality of the people, there is a lot to experience in the Philippines, and you don’t have the crowds like in other countries where you have to share a beach with many others. It’s really a treasure to discover, and once people have experienced the Philippines intimately, we indeed have a strong return quota.

Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll has been in the industry for 33 years. He has previously worked as the Tourism Director of the Department of Tourism in Tokyo, traditionally considered as one of the strongest markets for tourism, as well as Frankfurt, London and Paris.

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll, COO of the Philippines Tourism Promotion Board

The Philippines Tourism Promotion Board (PTPB) has the hard task to promote the country to more foreign visitors. Inside Investor talked to the board’s down to earth COO Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll about the challenges of achieving this goal.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Domingo Ramon C
Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll, COO of the Philippines Tourism Promotion Board

The Philippines Tourism Promotion Board (PTPB) has the hard task to promote the country to more foreign visitors. Inside Investor talked to the board’s down to earth COO Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll about the challenges of achieving this goal.

by Imran Saddique

Q: You worked in international markets like Tokyo, London etc previously what did you bring back from these assignments?

A: A lot of knowledge about these markets, information on how the Philippines should attract visitors from there. I gained a better capability to understand how the Philippines should respond to the needs of potential tourists. I understood how important communication is and that we should come up with platforms that are used today especially by the younger generation. When I was in London, I was very much exposed to digital marketing applications and I brought this knowledge back home to the Philippines.

Q: What will be the impact of typhoon Yolanda on tourism in the Philippines?

A: The Philippines experienced a significant increase in visitor numbers by the end of September 2013 compared to the previous year.  Despite the recent calamity, our aim is to surpass these numbers from 2012, which is in line with the target of 10 million tourists by 2016.

Q: How about tourism receipts?

A: We don’t have final figures for 2013 yet, but of course we want to focus more on increasing receipts rather than on just increasing numbers as receipts play a much bigger role for the economy, especially for communities. We want people to stay longer here, move around in the country and spend more on a day-to-day basis. At the moment, we are not maximising tourism receipts enough for the benefit of our communities which are engaged in tourism. But we have very strong targets in terms of receipts, job creation and contribution to GDP.

Q: Should the Philippines become a destination for long-term stay?

A: We see that tourists from long-haul markets tend to stay longer or come more frequently. They realise that the Philippines is a country with 7,000 islands which cannot be explored during a short stay. They either come back as repeat visitors or stay longer to see more of the country, and some also make the Philippines a base to visit the rest of Southeast Asia as air connections are good. We also have a huge overseas Filipino community, around 10 per cent of the population, who reside abroad but regularly come home and spend between three weeks and three months going around the country. That by itself is an indication of how we are a preferred destination for longer-staying and higher-spending visitors.

Q: Do you see areas of expansion? For example, in medical tourism?

A: To the point where people don’t have to rely on their medical insurance which not always covers treatment in the Philippines. In some cases, we have much better facilities here than other destinations in Southeast Asia, especially in Manila, and we are getting more and more players in the medical industry looking for tourists to come over and get treated.

Q: Would there be any direct cooperation between healthcare providers and tourism agencies?

A: On a case-to case-basis, we had cooperations with large medical facilities here in the Philippines. We did participate in promoting medical tourism, but the industry is also moving forward by itself and does not necessarily wait for government support as they have realised that medical tourism is a very potent market for their particular industry. Overseas Filipinos are also a huge market for them.

Q: In a nutshell: What’s special about the Philippines for tourists?

A: It’s clearly the people. We continue to highlight and showcase the unique selling proposition of the Philippines, which is its people. As the medical profession shows, Filipinos know how to take care. For example, in the UK there are a lot of Filipinos in the nursing profession, and many in the hospitality sector in the Middle East. Filipinos are very attentive to the needs of people, helpful to others, caring to the elderly. That’s part of the Filipino culture and hospitality. It’s genuine.

Q: What are currently the greatest challenges of boosting tourism numbers, apart from the typhoon?

A: It’s also about awareness creation. There is so much to appreciate in the Philippines that people are not aware of, so many places that we have to offer. We embarked on a global awareness campaign that aims at generating positive awareness about the Philippines, about its attractions instead of what’s in the news – a typhoon here and an earthquake there or some political issue. We invited key creative agencies, and they came up with the campaign “It’s more fun…” which best describes what to expect in the Philippines, Our people are hard-working but fun-loving, very religious but socially adaptable, they get along well with foreigners, they are dedicated to their families, they have good festivals and fiestas, they eat like there is no tomorrow – they are fun people to meet. That was the momentum to create this campaign. We interviewed tourists upon leaving how they perceived the Philippines, and many said they had a lot of fun – not fun that was manufactured by travel agencies, but genuine fun.  We held a press conference and invited 50 journalists and bloggers, and immediately the media and the Internet picked up the “It’s More Fun” campaign. Social media has one of the biggest communities in the Philippines, as people like to share information. They can’t live without Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – thus we were able to multiply our message on social media which created a snowball effect for the campaign. We started with three posters of “It’s more fun…”, and now we stand at about 60,000 as Filipinos themselves are creating them. It has become a people’s campaign.

Q: Infrastructure clearly needs to be improved, starting from Manila airport. What’s on the list?

A: We have a tourism coordination council, headed by the Department of Tourism, whose work involves all of the major agencies that have a stake in tourism. All of these infrastructure requirements have a place in the hierarchy of priorities that we have identified for tourism development, and certainly Manila airport is on the top of this list. However, the idea is to open or enlarge more airport hubs all over the country so that people don’t need to go through Manila but can go straight to places such as Boracay or Iloilo as their chosen destination. We have adapted certain policies which include an open skies policy that allows international carriers to fly directly to secondary destinations in the Philippines. For instance, Qatar Airways and Emirates are now flying directly to Clark, without any special licensing arrangements. This is part of decentralising arrival and departure points throughout the Philippines, as to not having just one main door but several windows as points of entry and exit.

Q: Which touristic regions are in the focus, which source markets are you looking at?

A: The idea is to develop hubs or clusters all over the Philippines under the national tourism development plan, and 26 of these have been identified. We are currently prioritising certain clusters which are already known internationally, beginning from the north – Laoag , Clark and Manila, then Daraga in Bicol, Iloilo, Kalibo, Cebu, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, as well as Lagindingan and Davao. As for source markets, we are looking at North Asia which is currently contributing the lion’s share of arrivals, for example South Korea with 1.2 million arrivals this year, and Japan as well as China, which both are strong markets for us. Second important source clusters are ASEAN and Asia-Pacific, with particular focus on Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, but we are also developing Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Q: How about Europe and the Middle East?

A: For sure, we want to develop these source markets, especially Europe. These markets are currently underutilised and under promoted, especially for longer-staying and higher-spending guests. Europe is very important in terms of creating much greater awareness.  The visit of more Europeans will auger the perception of the Philippines as a tourism destination.

Q: What areas can investors look at in terms of tourism development?

A: We have a government corporation called the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, or TIEZA, that provides incentives to foreign investors wishing to put up tourism projects here. In their mandate, they can grant incentives for investors with a focus on what we call tourism enterprise zones.  The incentives are currently being reviewed to make them more competitive and uniform with all other investments promotions agencies.

Q: Do you also see growth in the hospitality sector, such as hotels?

A: We are getting a lot more attention from the hospitality sector now, not just from hotels, but also from fully integrated resort complexes with gaming, dining, nightlife etc., for example the new Entertainment City that will be connected straightly from Manila airport through a skyway in the near future.

Q: Countries in Asia have used their cuisine to attract visitors. Would that be a possibility for the Philippines?

A: There is a lot about Filipino cuisine that is beginning to reach the consciousness of foodies, food critics and connoisseurs’ all over the world. We are now using it to a greater extent in our promotion efforts through different media channels. This is certainly one area of culture that we want to exploit.

Q: What would be your message to potential tourists who have no idea of the Philippines?

A: I’d say it’s a must visit destination. It’s the hospitality of the people, there is a lot to experience in the Philippines, and you don’t have the crowds like in other countries where you have to share a beach with many others. It’s really a treasure to discover, and once people have experienced the Philippines intimately, we indeed have a strong return quota.

Domingo Ramon C. Enerio lll has been in the industry for 33 years. He has previously worked as the Tourism Director of the Department of Tourism in Tokyo, traditionally considered as one of the strongest markets for tourism, as well as Frankfurt, London and Paris.

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