DOT urged to renew focus on tourism ‘big spenders’

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(Source: Business Mirror | November 7, 2017)

An academic official of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) is urging the tourism department to shift its focus to tourism “big spenders,” owing in part to the country’s infrastructure inadequacy to absorb a larger number of incoming tourists.

“The country [does not] want the numbers, but we want those who actually spend in the country,” said Dr. John Paolo Rivera, associate director of the AIM Center for Tourism during a Philippine-China Economic Forum.

“Even if we only have a few million tourists, if these tourists spend millions of pesos, then I think that’s the game,” he added.

According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the big spenders are from Korea, China, US, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

The estimated visitor receipts for 2017 is P212 billion, an increase of 29.27 percent over the P164 billion figure in 2016.

“Unlike the current strategy of overseas employment, tourism can match the revenue potential of remittances without a single Filipino having to leave the country to look for jobs,” Rivera said during a PowerPoint presentation.

“Unlike manufacturing, tourism can provide employment to a wide variety of educational preparation and skills,” he added.

Asia takes a big chunk of visitor’s arrival in 2017, taking 62 percent, followed by the Americas at 18 percent and Europe at 10.41 percent. The rest is shared by Australia/Pacific, Middle East, Africa, overseas Filipinos and others.

Rivera said that as far as the Philippines is concerned, we can sell our country as an ecotourism destination because ecotourists are those that actually spend more than regular backpackers. Ecotourists, he said, spend more than regular tourists do because they are the types who spend longer time in the country compared to those who go to Thailand, where they can easily transfer to another country, either by land or by air.

Those types of tourists will actually come from the developed countries like Europe or United States. However, Rivera said, “We can still tap Korea, Japan and China because they can see us as a cheaper alternative compared to other island destinations.”

However, he said, the country has to position itself when it comes to promotions because until now, “We have yet to provide a definite market for Philippine tourism because, as my observation, the Philippines really caters to local and western tourists.”

Rivera made the comment after it was revealed that although China has promised to send 2 million tourists last year, so far, only more than 600,000 have made it this year.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said there could be a total of one million of his compatriots from the mainland that will come to the Philippines at the end of the year, adding a million more will follow in the coming years.

A Chinese official told the BusinessMirror that the country’s resorts and hotels are not ready to accommodate Chinese tourists who demand Chinese breakfast, Chinese movies in their room and Chinese entertainment.

Michelle Wang, an executive of the Communication University of China, who was in the country recently to observe Philippine-style journalism, said many Chinese are lactose intolerants, and prefer a variety of soy milk, tofu and lots of vegetables in their diet.

“We eat a variety of bread during breakfast, drink lot of fruit juices, eat plenty of fruits, and are not really fond of the greasy stuff like bacon and hot dogs,” Wang said.

“That’s the problem, we promote the Philippines, but we’re not yet definite about our positioning. We must target specific tourists that we want to invite. Are they millennials, Chinese, Europeans, Americans?” Rivera, for his part, said.

He added that with the changes in the DOT’s current campaign, “Slowly we can start introducing products that would cater to the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and Americans.”

Right now, Rivera said the demographic characteristic of Chinese tourists is that they spend so much on luxury items, and other high-end products. “They are luxury spenders, they are the best tourists when it comes to spending.”

He said most well-to-do Chinese don’t want beaches and mountains, but prefer shopping malls and duty-free shops where they can buy luxury bags and other consumables.

The study said 41 percent of Chinese tourists shop in downtown duty-free stores, and 26 percent buy at airport duty-free shops. Only 15 percent patronizes department stores and 9 percent go to free standing brand stores, while 7 percent buy their needs at shopping mall brand stores.

Rivera also mentioned that many Chinese tourists who cannot be accommodated in Hong Kong or Singapore have chosen to come to the Philippines instead, where luxury items are sold lower prices.

Told of the country’s lack of capacity to absorb millions more, Rivera said, “That’s the mismatch, when we promote, we don’t have yet the infrastructure that we need to develop first. Infrastructure before promotions, but what’s happening [here]. Promotion first before infrastructure.”

The tourism department said 6 million tourists visited the Philippines in 2017, surpassing the 5.9-million target set it has set for the year, and proving that the country is on its way to becoming a favored and emerging tourist destination.

Rivera said “we must change the promotional strategy from internal development first. Let us establish the infrastructure, the connectivity, like roads, subway networks before we go heavy on promotions.”

Noting that the current DOT campaigns seem to promote both, Rivera agreed, saying the Philippines has already lost a lot of time “when we did not invest heavily on infrastructure, 10 or 20 years ago.”

 

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