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And now: the French discovers les Philippines
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Marbee Shing-Go
Date: 2008-10-05
In the land of high art, high fashion, and high sales tax emerged a culture which has single-handedly set the trends that the modern world define as tasteful. France, undoubtedly, has been promoting its cultural influence for centuries. From the Parisian couture houses of Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, the luxury leather atelier of Louis Vuitton; to the early generation of French thinkers including Moliere, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, Sartre, and Camus; to the guide of Andre Michelin, which set the standard for star-worthy cuisine in the world – this birthplace of Impressionism and Surrealism has been one innate with the audacity to find rarest gems among rocks.

More recently, the French have taken a bit of a breather from the trappings of the urban life, finding some novelty in the idea of searching for paradise; one that would suit their appreciation of nature, adventure, and of course, culture. Having been the foremost source of trends the world over, it isn’t at all uncanny for them to discover an island among seven thousand, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The story of their enthrallment to the charms of the Philippines requires a little telling.

Koh Lanta

The newfound fascination of the French over the Philippines began with the hit reality TV game show "Koh Lanta," which was the French franchise of the popular "Survivor" series. Seen by over 8 million French audience, Koh Lanta airs on a primetime spot over TF1 channel, the leading broadcast station in Europe. The show first featured Palawan last season, but this year, they decided to film again in the country, this time in Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Unbeknownst to many, this island is popular for its many coves and islets, as well as Gota Beach which is a visual treat for those seeking to redefine paradise. According to Eduardo Jarque Jr., DoT Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions, "The familiarity of the French market with our destinations is also due to our partnership with Koh Lanta. The country also gained a lot of media mileage as we hosted the grand finale of the show which was featured live on TV."

The show not only brought international fame to Camarines Sur but also developed an even greater interest in the Philippines among the French nationals as it was positioned as paradise where nature is untouched. Destinations like Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Boracay, and Manila are now destinations du jour of the French and can now be found in the hot list of must-see places in top French travel brochures.

Top Resa 2008

This exposure was further enhanced by the participation of the country in Top Resa, the biggest travel and trade show and tourism forum in France. Top Resa hosts travel professionals such as representatives from travel agencies, corporate travel managers, members of the media, as well as those from other sectors.

This year, the Philippines has taken another step forward by coming up with an even more substantial delegation, led by Secretary Ace Durano of the Department of Tourism. Their participation, as seen with the booth that measured 83 square meters in the trade fair, was meant to fulfill two goals. One is to create business between the French travelers, the media, hotels, and so on, communicating the lifestyle of the Philippines and the wonders that the country can offer. But the second goal of greater importance: to improve the image of Philippines, in terms of the credibility of the destinations.

And true enough, the reception was extremely favorable. On the last night of Top Resa, the Philippine delegation hosted Mabuhay Night, which was hosted by Mr. Denis Brogniart, the producer of Koh Lanta. The show was set to allow visitors to discover the Philipipnes through its music, dance, and visual ties between the destination and Koh Lanta.

Nature, adventure, culture

Now, why is it that the French find the Philippines so enthralling? It is simply because our country is blessed, we could offer a combination of three things: natural diversity, exotic adventures, and the charm of authentic culture. The country offers a unique Latin-Asian cultural mix, which is both exotic and very exciting for the French travelers. They desire the possibilities of seeing architectural heritage, seeing the church for example, or the tangible experience of the open market, or the romance of walking in the beach at night while being serenaded by guitars, or even a cultural show.

According to Sec. Durano, a good example of this mix of nature, adventure, and culture can be found in Bohol. "Bohol has all the ingredients: with diving, beach, nature, ancestral land, with the Chocolate hills, and Loboc river, add that with the cultural richness of Baclayon church and the historical housing in the area," he shares.

Les Philippines

In the end, our country has so much to offer tourists, not only in terms of natural resources but also in culture. It is only through the joint efforts of the government, and the private sector, that we encourage other people to know more about our beautiful destinations. Perhaps we may even discover ourselves in the process, as the French has done.

For more information on upcoming international travel fairs such as the Travel Trade Gazette Incontri in Italy; the Dive Show 2008 at Birmingham, England; and the World Travel Market 2008 at Excel Docklands in London, please contact Verna Buensuceso, head of Team Europe, at 529-0934/524-1928 loc. 254/256.

[ Loboc River Wiki | Gota Beach Wiki | Baclayon Church Wiki ]

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