Philippines launches tourism drive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am


The Philippine government is rolling out a new campaign to boost the number of Hong Kong visitors to levels last seen before Manila hostage crisis.

A black travel alert has been in place warning people not to visit the Philippines since seven Hong Kong tourists and their tour guide were killed when a disgruntled policeman, Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tour bus in Manila in August 2010 and later turned his gun on the bus passengers.

The Security Bureau said it was reviewing the country's situation. A black travel alert means all travel to the country should be avoided.

Some 112,106 visitors from the city visited the Philippines last year, a drop of 16 per cent from 2010, when the figure stood at 133,746, according to the country's department of tourism.

The new global branding campaign, under the slogan 'It's more fun in the Philippines', promotes the country as a destination for diving, honeymoons, and cultural and natural tourism.

Maria Jorda-apo, director for North America and Asia Pacific of the department, travelled to Hong Kong yesterday to introduce the campaign to the tourism sector. She estimates there will be 13 per cent more Hong Kong visitors by the end of this year.

'We keep on promoting because we believe this is a very important market despite all the challenges that we went through,' she said.

The department plans to spend 20 million pesos (HK$3.6 million) on the Hong Kong campaign.

Other efforts to boost tourism included a plan, called 'bring home a friend', which offers incentives to local Filipinos who bring a friend to visit their country, and two airlines have recently launched direct services from Hong Kong to Kalibo, a gateway to diving paradise Boracay.

After Beijing suspended tour group travel to the Philippines last month due to a territorial row over the Scarborough Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, Jorda-apo said her colleagues on the mainland were making efforts to woo individual travellers.

Rosanna Villarmor-Voogel, the Philippine deputy consul general in Hong Kong, said there had been a slight drop in visitors to the country but was confident the situation would improve this year. She hoped Hong Kong's travel alert could be lifted soon.

'Particularly in Hong Kong, we need to work extra hard [to promote tourism] because of the situations that happened,' she said.


The drop in Hongkongers visiting the Philippines last year compared to 2010