Thursday, August 24, 2006

Korea now RP’s largest source of tourism investments — Durano

A year after attracting over 480,000 Korean visitors to the Philippines, Korea has remained the country’s largest tourist market in Asia with an estimated target of 600,000 arrivals by December, and is today’s leading investor of multi-billion peso worth of tourism-related projects.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano announced during a press conference held recently in Mandaluyong City that the Koreans have invested heavily in golf and resort infrastructure projects in various tourist destinations across the country.

Among these are the newly-completed 5-star Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa worth P3 billion in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu; a $ 10-million Korean joint venture investment in an 18-hole championship golf course at the Royal Garden Golf and Country Club in Angeles City, Pampanga; and huge capital outlay in Mimosa Leisure Estate in Clark, Pampanga and Seraph Hotel, the first Korean hotel in Boracay. A Korean company is also planning to put up a residential property for its retirees inside the Subic Freeport Zone in Olongapo.

Durano said these Korean investments are part of 22 other varied projects amounting to R3.9 billion that the Department of Tourism (DoT) has endorsed for grant of incentives and clearances in 2005.

"The Koreans are not only our tourists, they are also our biggest investors. They are the ones playing golf in Zamboanga. They have put up a golf academy in Cagayan de Oro, and a spa in Mt. Pinatubo. They come here to learn English as well," he exclaimed.

The tourism chief hailed the new flow of investments which would somehow help the country solve its problem of limited room capacity in its choice destinations.

"For Boracay and Cebu alone, we are short of 5,000 hotel rooms. When these expansions and new infrastructures are completed after two years, it will only provide 2,000 hotel rooms in the major destinations," he said.

To encourage more investments for tourism infrastructure, he explained that the government has began to undertake several projects that will give tourists easier and more convenient access to destinations particularly in Central Philippines which attracts more than half of foreign tourists in the country. These include the building of new airports in Bicol, Bohol and Balabac in Palawan and upgrading of old ones in Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Busuanga and San Vicente, Palawan.

Moreover, a R3 billion private investment in San Jose Romblon and the construction of good roads in Panay island is expected to benefit nearby Boracay island. In Cebu, he said a R783-million South Road project is expected to cut travel time between Cebu City and southern tourist towns.

In the meantime, Durano said the DoT is maintaining its strong demand from its top source markets like Korea and has focused on maximizing its existing hotel room capacity.

To sustain its popularity in Korea as an all-time favorite Southeast Asian destination particularly for honeymooners, the DoT has launched recently a new campaign for Korea dubbed "7,107 Philippines: More than You Can Imagine." This is an offshoot of last year’s successful "Feel the Philippines" campaign which drew in a record number of arrivals, that even surpassed visitors from the United States, and posted a growth rate of 26 percent.

"Our marketing strategy for the new campaign will capture the Korean minds to venture beyond the usual. The Philippines will be packaged as an extraordinary destination located just a few hours from Korea, that offers 7,107 variety of experiences and sites," Durano explained.

To strengthen this sales pitch, Durano has appointed famous Korean singer/actress Eugene Kim as the Philippines’ special tourism envoy to Korea. Kim is the country’s second celebrity endorser to be conferred this title, next to fellow Korean actor Kim Sung-Min.

Durano said Kim was chosen for her wholesome image and stature as a topnotch entertainer in her country.

Kim will help promote the DoT’s subcampaign geared to entice Korean lady travelers. She is set to appear in a FIT (Foreign Individual Traveler) Ladies’ Guide Book and an audiovisual material featuring the best spots for dining, shopping and entertainment in Manila, Cebu, Bohol, and Boracay. Her recent familiarization tour to these places will also be covered and aired by various magazines and stations in Korea. All these promotions, according to Durano, are aimed at capturing a bigger slice of the 10 million outbound Korean market.

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