By  Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, March 18 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to ABS-CBN News

THE Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) is anchoring its work program this year on conferences and meetings to boost the country’s tourist arrivals.

TPB, the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), is also adopting strategies that will tap people’s motivations for traveling and focusing on their interests instead of just pushing the local destinations, which had been part of the promotions plans of the agency in the past.

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, TPB Chief Operating Officer Venus Marie Q. Tan also said it will initiate community-based projects that support sustainable tourism, the DOT’s overarching theme.

One of the DOT’s goals is to make the Philippines the “premier Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions [MICE] destination in Asia.”

As such, Tan stressed, “I want to strengthen MICE and bring back all the big congresses. Because we’re still run by [arrival] numbers, the bodies will come from Mice.” Under the National Tourism Development Plan of 2017 to 2022, the DOT is targeting to attract 8.2 million foreign tourists this year, up 15.5 percent from the 7.1 million who traveled to the Philippines in 2018.

“We will work on slow travel, on immersion, and strongly on soft power, [with tourists’] interest as a driver. We will build on culture, gastronomy, our strength [smiles], and everything to do about Filipino values and our unique national assets,” she added. “Even the way we will communicate will be around the strength of the Philippines.”

As regional director of the Cordillera Administrative Region, Tan introduced innovative concepts such as painting Baguio houses on a hill in colors, like the favelas of Brazil, and most recently, tree bathing in the summer capital’s forests.

According to TPB’s work program for 2019, its strategic marketing directions will focus on high-spending markets that stay longer in the country and give them an “optimal experience.”

Among its new marketing initiatives, Tan said, is a “rainbow pride project” to tap the growing  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied  market. The idea, she explained, is “to position the Philippines as a safe and friendly country that welcomes the LGBTQIA community,” considered a high-end market.

The TPB will also be implementing a “Philippines on Wheels” program, targeting consumers in highly populated areas in South Korea, Japan  and China, especially in malls, markets and parks. This will “create awareness in target areas in partnership with top agents, airlines, private stakeholders and online stores,” said Tan.

To encourage more visitors from Asean, the TPB also intends to tap Filipino teleseryes and movies, dubbed in Malaysian or Bahasa, for airing and online streaming through cable TV and other multimedia companies. Depending on the budget available, the TPB may also invite “top-rated” Malaysian, Indonesian, or Thailand TV series “to shoot episodes in the Philippines with famous Filipino actors and actresses to maximize publicity,” she added.

The TPB is also pushing the Philippines as a film location “by leveraging on its rich natural attractions and cultural heritage,” she added.

In coordination with the DOT overseas offices, the TPB will partner with international retail brands (e.g., Roxy, Billabong, Quicksilver) to design special pieces to feature different island destinations in the Philippines, like Siargao, for instance, “and to sell them at a certain cost where a portion of the proceeds will benefit a local community development in the destination,” said the TPB chief. “A raffle draw will also be held for those who purchase the product. The prize will be a trip to the Philippines sponsored by the private sector.”

To strengthen the MICE industry, the TPB intends to bid for big-ticket events, such as conferences of the World Travel and Tourism Council, United Nations World Tourism Organization, Unesco Creative City meets, South by Southwest Music Festival, film events, and the like.

The TPB also aims to employ cross-brand marketing to boost the awareness of the Philippines by partnering with popular international brands like Hertz (Hertz Philippines Travel Guide), Hugo Boss, Christian Loubotin (for limited edition bags inspired by iconic Philippine features) Oris watch (e.g., Limited edition Tubbataha watch), Filipino designers Michael Cinco and Monique Lhuillier, and Philippine jeweler Jewelmer.

Part of its action plan to boost the tourism numbers of the Philippines, aside from branding the Philippines as a MICE center, is to implement a focused marketing communication plan, which includes “advertising in all markets in cross hubs of the world, as well as heavy online digital platforms and offline activations to draw point of sales.”

It also intends to participate in nontraditional fairs and events with “high attendance of global influencers present,” to boost tourism numbers.

Among the new international tours and travel events the TPB intends to participate in for the rest of the year are: (March) Nagoya Travel Fair; (April) China International Leisure Tourism Expo; (May) ITB Asia and Blue Ocean Diving Festival Kansai; (June) Ehime Soratabi in Japan; (August) Hokkaido Overseas Travel Fair and The Big Festival in Oxfordshire, England; (September) Seoul Friendship Fair; (November) Okinawa Travel Fiesta; and (December) United States Tour Operators Association Conference and Market Place.

For MICE markets specifically, the TPB is eyeing to participate in these events: The Meetings Show in UK (June), Get Global Australia (July), and Meet the Bidder Grand Edition Poland (November).