LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of Filipino American travel enthusiasts and tourism industry players recently flocked to the official launch of the Bisita, Be My Guest (BBMG) program of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT).
This was the first-ever Philippine tourism fair of the Marcos administration in the United States after the two-year hiatus from the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. has consistently been on the top list of international travelers to the Philippines with about 500,000 arrivals in 2022.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco told reporters on the sidelines of the BBMG launch in Burbank on Saturday, April 22 that the current administration is optimistic that the U.S. market would continue to be one of the leading countries with the highest number of international arrivals to the Philippines.
“I am extremely delighted to know that the Philippines continues to be a top of line destination for our friends here in the United States. The United States has continued to be a very strong source market for us having been number one last year and number two (as of the first quarter of 2023) this year so we are very excited to welcome more of our Filipino and foreign friends to the Philippines,” Frasco said.
“Last year, it was the United States market that really sustained Philippine international tourism, having been number 1 and having garnered 500,000 international arrivals. As we have just closed out the first quarter, we have already received over 300,000 visitors from the United States,” she noted.
Frasco reiterated President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ call for all Filipinos (including those who live in the U.S.) around the globe to become Philippine tourism ambassadors.
“I’m here, together with our team from the Department of Tourism, carrying with us the love and warmth of the Filipino people as we champion Philippine tourism. We are here to invite our fellow Filipinos to become tourism ambassadors for the Philippines by inviting a foreign friend, guest or spouse to visit any of our beautiful islands in the country in exchange for prizes such as a house and lot, condominium units, free airline tickets and holiday packages and tours,” Frasco said, while explaining the mechanics of the BBMG program.
She described the various destinations that overseas Filipinos and foreigners alike can enjoy, such as Cebu, Palawan and Bohol, for its beaches and water activities like diving. For surfing, she recommended Siargao and La Union; the Cordilleras and Baguio for nature adventures.
“If you want to experience Filipino food, of course, we have the very delicious offerings of Pampanga, as well as in many other places where the delicacies are actually quite distinct regionally,” the secretary added.
“The Philippines is now the world’s leading beach destination and the world’s leading dive destination as well as Asia’s leading tourist attraction,” she added.
The tourism chief also called on Filipino Americans to be part of their endeavor in achieving a goal of a 100% turnaround of the country’s tourism industry by next year.
“The target for the Philippines last year was set at 1.7 million international arrivals but because of the strong interests that continue for the Philippines, we received over 2.65 million international arrivals therefore surpassing our targets. This year, overall by the end of 2023, we will able to garner over 4.8 million international visitors and anticipate a 100 percent recovery for international travel next year,” she said.
This projection, she said, is earlier than what was projected before she assumed office that the country would reach the pre-pandemic travel numbers by 2025. The country recorded 8.26 million visitors in 2019.
She likewise expressed gratitude for the overwhelming response they got from the U.S.-based Filipinos.
“Thank you so much for continuing to champion the Philippines by showing your love for our country and your great interests across our islands. As we are very excited to launch this program here in the United States and we are very hopeful that with the help of our fellow Filipinos here in the United States, we could continue to herald the good news about Philippines, the love and warmth of the Filipinos await you,” she said.
Frasco also assured that the DOT, consistent with its mandate to help in the government’s sustainable growth, is doing its best to come up with various programs like the BBMG, to give not only the country’s tourism sector a boost but also the entire Philippine economy.
She recognized the tourism revenue contribution coming from the domestic front.
“Domestic tourism continues to help our regions and provinces greatly in terms of its contribution to the economy. And that is why we fully foresee, a 100 percent recovery of domestic tourism this year with no less than 122 million domestic trips taken by our fellow Filipinos. All of these translate to the most important purpose of pushing for Philippine tourism and that is the livelihood and employment of our fellow Filipinos. The tourism industry generated no less than 5.2 million for employment jobs for Filipinos last year,” she noted.
Prior to the U.S. launch, the DOT met with various travel stakeholders and Filipino communities in Japan and Germany to continuously promote the Philippines as a prime tourist destination.
“Since the start of the Marcos administration, we have begun the work of aggressively promoting the Philippines worldwide. As a matter of fact, I just returned from ITB Berlin, having brought the biggest Philippine delegation. Thankfully, with the support of our friends from various places in Europe, that particular exhibition generated for the Philippines $250 million in negotiated sales,” she said.
“We are also very grateful for the opportunity to have pitched for the Philippines in various jurisdictions including the United Kingdom as well as Saudi Arabia. We’ve also been to Thailand as well as Japan and many other jurisdictions by maintaining our positive relationship with fellow government ministers as well as our government-to-government relations, country to country,” she added.
To be able to attain their goal of 100 percent recovery by 2024, she said aside from BBMG and other tourism development initiatives, the DOT head said the Marcos administration is seeing to it that it would maintain friendly relationships with other nations.
“We are blessed by the fact that our president maintains a stance to be a friend to all and enemy to none and that has benefitted Philippine tourism greatly because our dual partnerships with countries that share our interests and the push for tourism continues to be sustained,” she said.
When asked about peace and order concerns, Frasco said while she has not encountered any from her meetings with the tourism stakeholders, she assured that the Philippine government, coinciding the implementation of these tourism promotion strategies, is making sure that security and peace and order in the country’s tourism destinations are of utmost priority.
The BBMG event in Southern California also highlighted exhibition booths from various travel agencies, aviation and airline firms, real estate and Filipino American entrepreneurs. Mr. Pure Energy Gary Valenciano was also a guest performer at the launch.
BBMG was officially launched by DOT last December 13, 2022. Aside from the DOT, the campaign, which will run from January 2023 to April 2024, will also include participation from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
Under the incentive program, registrants will be provided with a travel passport that they can use to go across key destinations, get stamps, and claim a prize at the airport. This will also give them a privilege card featuring discounts at accredited establishments across the country. There are also raffle prizes for qualified sponsors. For more details about the program, you can go to https://bbmg.philippines.travel.