Bold Tourism Campaign
By Mila Astorga-Garcia
PAL, DOT launch
PAL starts daily Toronto-Manila flights; DOT goal: 155,000 Canadian arrivals in 2013
TORONTO–The Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Philippines and Philippine Airlines (PAL) – the country’s flag carrier – have jointly embarked on a bold campaign to boost tourism in the Philippines, by tapping into the increasingly lucrative Canadian market, and eventually, the entire North American market.
The campaign was officially launched with PAL’s 15-hour non-stop Manila-Toronto maiden flight using the carrier’s new long-range Boeing 777-300ER carrier, which arrived Friday, Nov. 30.
“Through PAL’s direct service, we want to showcase the exciting opportunities between Manila and Toronto in terms of tourism, culture and trade relations,” says Felix J. Cruz, PAL Vice President for Marketing Support, Commercial Group, in a press statement.
The campaign is encouraged by the fact that Filipino-Canadians are among the largest visitor groups to the Philippines, which according to an official release, account for more than 117,400 arrivals in 2011.
In a joint press conference by the DOT and PAL at the Shangri-la Hotel, Dec. 3, attended by Manila-based Filipino journalists who were among PAL’s maiden flight passengers, Toronto-based Filipino journalists and mainstream Canadian journalists, Daniel Corpuz, Undersecretary of Tourism, revealed that 2012 and 2013 Canadian arrivals are expected to even increase more, with the introduction of PAL’s new service.
Between January and October 2012, Canadian passport holders comprised around 86,000 arrivals, and this is expected to exceed 120,000 by the end of this year. By the end of 2013, the target is 155,000 Canadian arrivals, Corpuz said.
PAL’s Cruz said that the targeted increase in arrivals is doable with the eventual “seven flights turn-around in Toronto,” and the additional “seven flights turn-around over Vancouver,” the latter PAL is currently requesting the Canadian government to approve.
“(This) will expand the capacity that will allow the targets to be met,” assured Cruz.
This confidence is also bolstered by the recognition of both the DOT and PAL that in the Greater Toronto Area alone, residents of Filipino origin comprise 250,000 or 4.1 per cent of the GTA’s total 6.05 million residents, making them the largest concentration of Filipinos in Canada. Thus, Toronto was considered “a natural base market” for PAL. Moreover, Filipino immigrants and migrants have been the fastest growing ethnic community in Canada since 2010, according to Statistics Canada.
With a stronger Filipino-Canadian tourism market in sight, the DOT might have to consider re-opening its tourism office in Canada, which was closed a few years ago “due to a market shortfall at a faster rate,” according to Corpuz.
The campaign to attract more Canadian visitors is only part of the bigger program to boost the Philippine tourism industry, which is at present the fourth largest dollar earner for the country, according to Corpuz. The first is export produce and manufactures; second, overseas Fiipinos; and third, information technology.
The ambitious program which targets 10 million tourist arrivals by year 2016 has the objective of producing 6.8 million job opportunities, among others.
Corpuz outlined three directions by which the Philippine government hopes to achieve the objectives of the tourism program.
First is to “diversify product offering and open up destinations,” which include opening up the country not just for beach tourists, but also for conferences, entertainment, shopping, health and well-being and medical tourism, among other packages, he said.
Second is by improving the market through “accessibility and transportability” such as improved road networks to connect airports, and new airports with expanded terminal buildings and expanded runways, Corpuz added.
Third is to develop a new system to ease out travel, which, with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, would allow for faster visa procedures, as well as “visa upon arrival,” he said, which is already practiced by other ASEAN countries. “We are the only country in the ASEAN that does not have this facility,” he noted.
The DOT has also embarked on a unique promotional campaign to boost tourism, launched in January 2012, which is captured in its slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” It is unique because instead of using the traditional ways of promotions, it principally uses new media or social media. Starting with four versions that were shot to capture Philippine tourist scenes, among them, the Banaue terraces and bancas along the beach, the promotional images have expanded to include a great variety of tourist-enticing concepts.
“Filipinos have been very supportive of the campaign,” reported Benito C. Bengzon Jr., assistant secretary for International Tourism Promotion of the DOT. “It is an inclusive campaign “ supported by the public, and as a result, over 50,000 versions of “It’s more fun in the Philippines” have been produced and circulated through social media networks, he said.
On the part of PAL, the tourism expansion plan will eventually involve a multi-billion dollar fleet expansion to include 100 airplanes that will service Toronto, New York, and strategic cities in Europe and the Middle East.
PAL believes that a big come-on for its passengers would be its the brand-new Boeing 777-300 ER that it had used for its Toronto maiden voyage, which seats 42 in Mabuhay Class (business) and 328 in Fiesta Class (economy). The aircraft boasts of being fuel-efficient, having a wide body with ergonomically designed features, and state-of-the art entertainment systems. It also claims to have “two GE 90-1115BL engines — the largest and most powerful in the world, (which) can easily cover 13,230 kilometers between the two cities (Toronto and Manila) non-stop,” according to an official press statement.
As for the cost of the flight, Corpuz said a round trip ticket would be around Cdn $1,300 to $1,800, but in time would also depend on the supply and demand, as well as its competitiveness in price with other airlines.
To cap the promotional blitz for its Toronto inaugural flight, PAL hosted a cocktails/reception after the press conference, attended by travel agencies servicing the Philippine market. The event featured speeches, entertainment, and a raffle of 6 gift certificates for travel packages which included airfare and hotel accommodations for two, with one to three tourist destinations, the cost of each package ranging from Cdn$12,134 to Cdn$23,310. The lucky winners were tour operators and their agents.