|The Koreans are coming!
|Source: Manila Bulletin
|Author: Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza
Korean ‘’invasion’’ is happening in the country and Philippine tourism stalwarts are welcoming this with open arms.
Last year, inbound traffic from Korea achieved a milestone when it posted a record arrival of 572,133 visitors, the largest single source of tourism traffic to the Philippines. This figure translates to a 16.9 percent increase compared to record arrivals during the same period in 2005.
This year for the first quarter, Korean tourists have maintained the top spot with 171,716 travelers arriving in the country.
‘’This accounts for 21.7 percent of the total arrivals of the period, and an 18 percent increase from last year,’’ explains Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace H. Durano. ‘’The first quarter, mostly comprising winter and partly spring, is really the best time for Koreans to travel abroad and escale the very cold weather.’’
With a market so lucrative to tap, it is no wonder that the Philippines had sent a 60-man delegation to the Korea World Travel Fair (KOTFA) 2007 in Seoul, Korea last week to gun for a bigger share of the Korean outbound travel market pie and slug it out with traditional favorite destinations such as China, Japan and Thailand. KOTFA is recognized worldwide as the leading travel exhibitin in Korea.
Durano heads the RP contingent to the annual travel show composed of airlines, tour operators, hotels and resorts. Key destinations included Casa del Mar Golf Resort, Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Waterfront Airport Hotel Cebu, Amarela Resort, Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa in Bohol, Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Marco Polo Davao, Pearl of the Pacific Boracay, Bahura Resort and Spa in Dumaguete, Anilao Outrigger Resort, Microtel Inns and Suites, Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, Century Park Hotel Manila, and Subic Legend Hotels and Casinos.
Also represented are Philippine Airlines, SEAIR and six tour operators namely Indo’s Travel and Tours, Regent Travel, Hana Tour, No. 1 Tour, Kahsan Travel and Island Resort Club Tour.
Durano was also the guest of honor at the opening of KOTFA. Maximizing his short visit, he held a business meeting with Seoul Mayor Oh Se Hoon for potential cooperative endeavours and a fellowship gathering with wholesalers of the Korean travel trade.
The arrival figures from Korea may be generally satisfactory but Maricon Basco-Ebron, Tourism Attache and head of the Department of Tourism Team Korea, says there is certainly so much more to conquer.
‘’The Philippines ranks fifth among their favorite travel destinations, getting 4.9 percent of the 11 million outbound Korean tourists, but I really believe that we can share the fourth place with Thailand, if not totally outdo them. Thailand gets 7.8 percent of the Korean visitors, while China, Japan and the US occupy the top three spots,’’ Ebron explains.
To achieve this, the DoT has been stepping up marketing activities in Korea, building and enhancing the image of the Philippines as a quality destination to Korean visitors that traditionally include golfers, honeymooners, career women, businessmen, young professionals, and students coming over to study English as a second language. Newer markets to tap include families and outbound summer vacationers.
Ebron reveals that the P150-million budget a year to promote the Philippines in Korea are mostly spent in advertising in Korean newspapers, magazines, cable channels and online promotions. A PR agency is also retained to be able to counter any negative publicity that the Philippines might get in the local Korean press.
The DoT has come out with promotional brochures and informative literature about the various destinations and activities the Philippines has to offer. Written in the Korean language, these materials allow the Korean travel trade to understand and appreciate the Philippines even better.
The Tourism department also took the opportunity to launch at KOFTA 2007 the maiden issue of ‘’7107: Philippines Travel News."
Also launched at KOTFA was a five-minute video of the DoT’s latest ‘’Beyond The Usual’’ campaign that highlights the uniqueness of the Philippines.
‘’We are raising promotions to a higher level,’’ assures Durano. ‘’Our tagline for Korea is ‘More Than You Can Imagine’ because we want to show the country’s best-selling destinations, natural wonders, pristine beaches, thrilling adventures and real bargains.’’
Ebron adds that the marketing campaign prioritizes not just the appropriate market segments but also the geographic locations.
‘’We factor in the seasons for intensified marketing and promotions. There is a season to market the lower-priced education packages to attract students. There is also a season to target honeymooners and families,’’ Ebron explains.
SELLING TO KOREA
Trust is a big word among Koreans. It is precisely the same tool that members of the Philippine travel trade are using in marketing to Koreans.
‘’They put the most value on deep-rooted relationships, just like we Filipinos do. Once you have proven to them that you can deliver, they will come back to you and offer you good business. I call it ‘puso sa puso’ because everything boils down to relationship’’ attests Roy B. Martin of Microtel Inns and Suites, a chain of midrange–priced accommodations located in Tarlac, Baguio, Eagle Ridge, Cavite, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, Boracay, Cabanatuan, Palawan and soon in Davao, SM Mall of Asia.
Martin has seen how the Korean travel market has developed through the years and he agrees that there is more to be tapped in the coming years.
Eileen F. Tuanio, senior sales manager of Pearl Farm Beach Resort in Davao, could not agree more. ‘’We are very happy selling Davao to our Korean agents. Korean visitors spend an average of two nights, three days in a resort destination, and about the same in a city destination.’’
With diving as one of the favorite activities of Korean tourists, the Bahura Resort and Spa takes a big leap and joins the KOTFA for the first time to acquaint itself with the Korean market. Its efforts are paying off, according to Agnes Lachica-Macapia, Bahura director of sales, who has found great sales lead in KOTFA through direct marketing.
The Philippines is so versatile that it is a cinch to sell it to the adventurous Korean market.
‘’They are always willing to try new destinations, new accommodations and new things to do. That’s why we are always on our toes to put together new packages that will entice them to come to the country and make it a point that their visit is always different, always better than their last,’’ adds Norman O. Eusebio of Microtel Inn and Suites Sto. Tomas.
For instance, Eusebio cites Microtel’s effort to increase its student market. With a tie-up with Phinma Training Center and De La Salle University, Microtel readies to target students who come to the Philippines to study English.
In his meeting with Korea’s travel trade players, Durano underscored the bullish investment sentiments in the country.
‘’Large tourism investments include Boracay Shangri-La Hotel. SM Investments is set to engage into a new thrust of development, eco-tourism real estate, with the launching of the masterplan for the Hamilo Coast to become a premier coastal residential and resort town. A new convention center at the Mall of Asia will open in October, which will be accessible to a series of hotels such as Carlson Hotels, Accoard, Manila Marriot Hotel, The Fairmont, and the Raffles Hotel,’’ Durano reveals.
Furthermore, offering more air seats will augur well for Philippine tourism. Durano reveals that a new air agreement between the Philippines and Korean governments provides for about 39,000 air seats a week, from the present 13,000 seats a week. At present, Philippine Airlines maintains two flights a day between Incheon and Manila, and one flight daily between Incheon and Cebu. There will also be direct flights between Incheon and Davao and prett