Written by IRMA ISIP
Malaya Business Insight
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
More than the fun and sun, the sand and beach, tourists come to the Philippines eager to experience culture novel to them, food somewhat exotic to their tastes and shopping sprees on gorgeous but competitive clothes that never fail to delight them.
Aileen Clemente, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) and of Rajah Travel Corp., said several new destinations and activities are stirring up the interest of tourists.
Clemente said tourists’ idea of leisure in the Philippines has gone beyond the soft adventure, they now soak up on some bit of culture and history as well.
The Kulinarya food trips in areas like Pampanga and the Intramuros and Chinatown walking tours are just some of the popular albeit common destinations.
Interest for historical sites like Vigan; cultural sites like the caves of Angono, and other preservation sites are catching on.
According to Clemente, some tourists are so niche. War veterans or their children, mostly American, Japanese and Filipinos, visit specific sites in time for Independence Day or Bataan Day celebration, where parallel wreath-laying and other commemorative ceremonies are incorporated in their stays.
Clemente said Filipinos, both home-based or balikbayan, are also fond of yet another type of R&R.
Balikbayan visiting for the Christmas holidays also squeeze in a trip to Boracay or Palawan. The more adventurous wanting to maximize their stay do island-hopping tours Panay-Capiz-Iloilo bundled with their Boracay sojourn, or take a road trip to the North, zipping through La Union, Baguio, Vigan, Fort Ilocandia, all the way to Pagudpud.
Clemente said because of the demand, Rajah is planning to revive its caravan travel which it used to do as part of a consortium. Families and friends either use their own cars or take a bus and ride in convoy driving all the way to Pampanga, Pangasinan, La Union or Baguio up to the Ilocos provinces.
Backpackers have also discovered the Mt. Pinatubo trek as an enjoyment in itself.
According to Clemente, the Philippines still has emerging destinations that can be enjoyed by both local and foreign tourists: Camarines Sur, while already hot for its water sports, remains emerging since accessibility remains limited, which is by land; Legazpi, because flight availability is relatively new; Cagayan region for its unexplored shorelines; Batanes and Tuguegarao up north just for their charm.
In the Visayas and Mindanao, up-and-coming destinations include Samar and Leyte for their well-preserved churches and historical sites (the Romualdez estate and McArthur’s landing site); Camiguin, Siargao, Cagayan de Oro for water rafting; and Aurora, which features a marine reservation center, and; Pangasinan, which is hosting a new resort.
Clemente said Metro Manila has its so-called “cultural mile” on Roxas boulevard, where a walking tour -- from the Bangko Sentral museum towards Rizal Park, Museo Pambata and Intramuros up to the National Museum – gives tourists a slice of history and art.
Clemente said local tourists who spend an average of P2,700 per day provide a steady stream of revenues for the tourism industry. The average length of stay is four nights, per 2005 statistics.
“They fill up the market and they are a constant or stable market for the industry,” Clemente said.
Shopping has also become an activity bin in itself for tourists.
Robinsons Place Manila, located right smack in the center of Malate, started shopping tour packages formally in January 2012 in partnership with various travel agencies and tour operators.
Because of the frequency of the tourist visits, Robinsons Place Manila’s marketing team viewed this as an opportunity to further enhance the shopping experience of the tourists. “The objective is to make every visit a worthwhile and memorable one, by incorporating interesting activities that complement their shopping experience,|” said Dollie Bufi, group property manager of Robinsons Land Corp.
The tourists are treated to Filipiniana cultural dance presentations at no additional cost for them and, more importantly, will no longer entail them to transfer to other places just to watch the show. If they opt to have their lunch or dinner in the mall, several establishments have already created food packages exclusive to the tourists.
Bufi said Robinsons Place Manila is so far the only Robinsons Mall that has existing tie-ups with travel agencies.
Bufi said tenants that have been very active in the activity are Cabalen, Recipe, Mr. Choi, Secret Recipe (for the food) and Robinsons Department Store and Robinsons Supermarket for the wide array of Filipiniana formal apparel, ladies and men accessories, footwear, household souvenir and novelty items, as well as various regional specialties and delicacies, and many more. For added convenience, the Midtown Atrium Events Area is converted to a one-stop shopping destination for large groups where all these shopping favorites are conveniently displayed attractively in a festive Filipiniana fiesta atmosphere
According to Bufi, those who join the tours are Chinese (Mainland China), Europeans and Americans.
Chinese nationals always buy cigars, wines and various regional delicacies while the Europeans and Americans love the Filipiniana apparel, accessories, and other souvenir items.
Bufi said this “attraction” has helped draw foot traffic to the mall.
Robinsons Place Manila enjoys an average pedestrian traffic of over 270,000 per day on weekdays and over 280,000 during weekends, an average of 10 percent increase from last year.
“While it enjoys a diversified target market, including foreign customers, Robinsons Place Manila now caters to a more discerning tourist profile who purposely go to the mall to shop and dine,” Bufi said.
In 2011, foreign tourist arrivals hit a record high of 3.9 million.
Domestic travelers have been very tricky to track down but, based on the household survey on domestic visitors of the National Statistics Office and the Department of Tourism, 22.8 million Filipinos (aged 15 and above) traveled within the country in 2009.