The Philippines Tourism Department came up with a new tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” last year. A year later, what do foreign tourists find to be the best part of their trip to the Philippines, which offers everything from nature, beaches and water sports to culture and a unique lifestyle?
Surprisingly, many tourists said what made their travel experiences more fun and special was the Filipino people, said Maricon Basco-Ebron, tourism director and attach of the Philippine Department of Tourism-Korea during an interview with The Korea Herald last Thursday in Seoul.
“We asked foreign tourists in the Philippines about the best part of their trips. And they said it’s the people they have met, people they mingled with during tours. They said Filipinos are very welcoming and hospitable,” said Ebron.
“A beach is a beach which you find anywhere else and shopping is also what you can do anywhere. But what makes the trips special is the experience you had with local people,” she said.
|Maricon Basco-Ebron, tourism director and attache of the Philippine Department of Tourism-Korea, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at her office in Euljiro, Seoul, on April 18. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)|
Ebron noted that Korea was the No. 1 country in terms of the number of visitors to the Philippines and investment in the country.
Serving as the tourism director at the Korean office for six years, Ebron has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Korean visitors to the Philippines. Korean tourists to the country increased by 39.2 percent from 740,622 in 2010 to more than 1.03 million in 2012.
Despite recent incidents involving shootings targeting Koreans in Angeles, some 80 kilometers from Manila, and a murder case involving other Korean residents, Ebron said Koreans in the Philippines were helping the country recover from the negative images associated with the violence.
“If the Philippines is not safe, about 150,000 Koreans living in the country will be the first to tell you ‘Hey guys, don’t come here. It’s not safe here.’ But they are the ones helping me to promote tourism in the Philippines,” said Ebron.
The Philippines also suffers from violence related to the upcoming general election in May, including shootings targeting candidates.
“I can’t say that the Philippines is a crime-free country, just like any part of the world. We have problems such as the poverty-related problems, but the government is open to solving them and tightening security,” she said.
The Philippine tourism department continues to discover unexplored places in the country and promote them to tourists, including Davao in Mindanao.
“The most popular ones Koreans love to visit are Cebu, Boracay, Bohol and Palawan, but we are trying to position Davao as a rising holiday destination. Davao is actually a very safe and beautiful place. But people hesitate to visit the place because of the prejudice they have with the Mindanao region, associated with terror attacks by rebel groups,” she said.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org