Freeman Cebu Business

January to August period: Filipino tourists to Korea up 30%

John M. Destacamento - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The number of Filipino travelers to Korea has surged, an official from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) recently revealed.

Director Sangyong Zhu of KTO-Manila said amid the Philippines’ steadfast drive to entice more foreign tourists to travel here, they are also seeing a growing number of Filipinos who actually go to the two-state East Asian territory, not to work but to travel.

Zhu said from January to August of this year alone, Filipino tourist arrivals in Korea rose to 280,000, a 30.2 percent leap compared to the statistics posted in the same period last year.

This was the highest number of Filipino travelers reported in Korea’s entire tourism history. According to Zhu, a major bulk of this market comes from Filipinos who go to Korea to visit their families and friends.

Primary drivers

Korea’s edge in lifestyle shopping and culture are seen as its primary drivers of Filipino tourists.

Zhu said Korea’s reputation as a top shopping destination, along with its “beautiful places that have served as filming sites of some of the world’s renowned movies and drama series,” has helped the nation find its niche in the global tourism industry.

The tourism spots, Zhu added, are complemented with the introduction of Korean culture to Filipinos via the so-called “Korean wave,” a term used to refer to the heightened popularity of South Korean culture since the late nineties.

The upward trend in the number of Filipino tourists in Korea is also viewed as an indirect effect of the strong economy experienced by the Philippines.

“In the first quarter of the year, the Philippines grew by 7.8 percent, and in the second quarter, it grew by 7.5 percent—that’s impressive. I think that’s why many Filipinos are traveling to Korea these days,” Zhu said.

‘Incentive tourism’

The Korean Ministry of Culture and Sports opened KTO in Manila last May 2012 to help promote Korea as a premier leisure, incentive and medical travel destination to the Philippine travelers.

Presently, the Korean agency is looking at “incentive tourism” as its newest tourism campaign, apart from relying on the market provided by Filipinos visiting their friends and relatives.

With incentive tourism in their thrust, KTO will now tap the potential market posed by companies that want to make traveling to other countries part of their incentive program to compensate top performing employees.

Zhu said this kind of compensation scheme is popular among financial, insurance and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms.

Likewise, Korea is also capitalizing on its winter-related activities to drum up further interest from prospective tourists worldwide.

Zhu noted that they are promoting “ski tourism,” where tourists are taken to the country’s snow and winter festivities, something not naturally present in the Philippines.

However, Zhu shared that the Philippine market continues to be hampered by seasonality issues, saying its peak seasons only fall on Easter and Christmas holidays with a relatively flat market in between those periods.

Travel Mart

Officials from KTO-Manila were in Cebu last Tuesday to stage the Korean Travel Mart, a trade fair aimed at bridging the gap between some of Korea’s travel agencies and tour operators and that of the Philippines.

About 200 travel agents participated in this mini travel fair at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City. A seminar was also held to orient Filipino travel agents on the guidelines and proper socialization in Korean travel.

At the fair, local travel and tours players got the chance to develop new travel and tour products, services and packages with five of Korea’s airlines and eight land operators.

Meanwhile, over 1.3 million Koreans entered the Philippines in 2012, making Korea as the top provider of foreign tourist arrivals to the country, outnumbering the Americans, Japanese and Chinese. (FREEMAN)











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