The Department of Tourism (DoT) formally announced 2015 to be the Visit the Philippines Year on September 4, 2014, during the launch its campaign at the SMX Convention Center of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, coinciding with the Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex), intensifying DoT’s tourism campaign and slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
Visit the Philippines Year is bolstered by major events happening in 2015 such as the visit of Pope Francis in January and the holding of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meetings and Leaders' Summit here. DoT is taking advantage of these events to entice more people to visit and explore the Philippines in its bid to reach its 10 million foreign arrival goal.
"There is a tendency to think tourism as an industry, as a business. When you think of tourism simply as an industry or as a business, you would tend to miss the single most important insight that makes the future of tourism a certainty, an exciting certainty for the Republic of the Philippines," DoT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said during the launch attended by foreign participants of Phitex. "Tourism is a performance. That is what tourism is all about. Tourism is a country performing at its best. We like to talk about 7,107 islands. I have news for you. These incredible beautiful 7,107 islands of the Philippines are simply the backdrop, the stage for a performance that can only be rendered by some of the best performers as best tourism agents in the world. They're known as the people of the Philippines."
He further explained: "The performance of the Philippines is what some have described as a phenomenal growth in tourism in the last four years. This is a country that had 22 million domestic travelers in all our airports, bus terminals and sea ports as recently as 2010. In 2013, 44 million travelers crossed domestic borders in the Philippines. That statistic indicates that the performance is not just ongoing, it is and outstanding and unforgettable performance. And what is performance in touristic terms? Performance is the ability to turn strangers into friends, the ability to turn times into memories, the ability to turn adventures into unforgettable experiences. That is what the performance is all about."
DoT said Philippine tourism has experienced robust growth because to the unprecedented support from the national government, local governments and the private sector. For the first six months of 2014, foreign tourism revenues amounted to P109.77 billion. This is reinforced by the country's investment upgrades and high economic growth performance.
"You do not go to a country simply to see it. You go to a country to experience not just the country itself, but your own humanity. And the Philippines is exactly all about," Jimenez added. "You know why there is a tremendous excitement now over tourism in Asia? It is because the Philippines has led the way in terms of allowing the rest of Southeast Asia to compete more effectively not just as places but as people…If the Philippines is the stage, if the Filipinos are the performers, your support will be the applause. Because only the applause, only your support will encourage an even better performance from the Philippines and the Filipinos."
Recently, the Philippines's aviation safety rating was elevated to Category 1, and DoT believes this will also be a boost to tourism not only for international flights but for domestic as well. For Visit Philippines Year, DoT aims to have one major occasion every quarter that would attract not only domestic but also international tourists to visit the country.
Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III, DoT Assistant Secretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions, laid out the events, promotions and activities for 2015 Visit the Philippines Year, which are categorized by interests and persuasions such as arts and culture, lifestyle and entertainment, travel and adventure, sports and business.
The papal visit headlines the arts and culture events. The much-anticipated visit will serve as gateway for visitors to experience the country's numerous festivals as well as discover its heritage structures such as centuries-old baroque churches.
For lifestyle and entertainment, shopping and nightlife are being promoted, especially for the capital Manila, that may interest tourists. Many international acts will come to the Philippines next year, including the much awaited concert of boy band One Direction. International events such as the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and the Philippine International Pyromusical Competition are likewise expected to draw foreign visitors.
For adventure seekers, DoT is banking on the country's natural wonders and biodiversity. Hiking, surfing and diving are being promoted in such places as Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Bohol and Cebu. Additionally, it is strengthening promotions for the Philippines' Unesco World Heritage sites-the Ifugao Rice Terraces, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife and Sanctuary, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
The country has been a regular in many international sporting events such as Iron Man and Xterra Triathlons, and CWC International Wakeboarding Competition. Additional, there are numerous local sporting events such as dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons that may interest the active traveler.
For conventions and business conferences, the Philippines is said to have ample facilities to host them. In fact, it will be hosting the APEC Ministerial Meetings and Leaders' Summit, which will be attended by 21 heads of state and 46 ministers, with about 10,000 economic leaders, support staff and international journalists.
Also, Visit Philippines Year will pave the way for Philippine tourism for the planned regional economic integration of Association of Southeast Asian Nations with measures that include the readiness of the Bureau of Immigration to honor the common visas extended by all member countries to those traveling to the Philippines.
To promote Visit Philippines Year 2015, the DoT's Web site was redesigned, redirecting its home page to the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" Web site (www.itsmorefuninthephilippines.com), which was upgraded to include more features to assist potential tourists, travel agencies and event organizers. Additionally, the DoT has developed a microsite inside the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" Web site to serve as directory to everything the Philippines has to offer. Event organizers, tour agencies, companies and individuals can register and promote their activities to an international audience at www.phl2015.itsmorefuninthephilippines.com.
"What will truly sustain Visit the Philippines Year 2015 campaign are the people themselves. I enjoin the businesses, communities and locals, to play an active part in spreading and amplifying our messages, enticing would-be visitors to come visit our shores," said Jimenez.