Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour 2024 launched

Jose Clemente III of Rajah Tours explains the details of this year’s VIP Tour.
AJPress Photo by Momar G. Visaya

Key officials promise a journey beyond fun

Consul General Senen Mangalile, Tourism Attache Francisco Lardizabal, and Jose Clemente III, president of Rajah Tours, unveiled the Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour 2024 on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate Genera New York.

This year’s journey is poised to be a celebration of the diverse tapestry that defines the Philippines and the tour’s thrust is that it is going to be a journey that goes beyond fun, reiterating that there is so much more that the Philippines can offer. It is a celebration and an invitation for Filipino Americans to be part of an unforgettable cultural immersion.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, through a video message, encouraged Filipino Americans to join this year’s VIP Tour, emphasizing the unique and immersive experience it offers. Romualdez expressed, “I encourage each and every one of you to be part of this incredible journey, where you will not only witness the wonders of our beloved country but also forge unforgettable memories and lifelong relationships.”

Consul General Mangalile, infused with enthusiasm, revealed the impetus behind his decision to lead the charge this year. Reflecting on the previous year’s tour, he shared that only 16 participants from the northeast joined, a number he aims to significantly surpass this year by targeting at least 100 participants from the New York region.

“This is the first time that the tour will visit northern Mindanao and so we are excited to be breaking new grounds, to be exploring new destinations and I hope that the participants will have a memorable trip,” Consul General Mangalile said. He added that the tour “will not only informative, not only enjoyable, but also meaningful because the activities that we are lining up are guaranteed to enable them to have a deeper interaction with the local communities.”

Clemente, representing Rajah Tours, the ground tour operator in the Philippines, unveiled the enticing destinations for the VIP Tour 2024.

The itinerary encompasses Manila and Bacolod, and notably, for the first time in the tour’s history, includes Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. Additionally, side trips to the neighboring province of Bukidnon and Iligan City are scheduled to add further excitement to the journey.

Clemente also thanked Consul General Mangalile for his commitment to exploring northern Mindanao, emphasizing the tour’s focus on meaningful interactions with local communities. While promising fun elements like whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro and culinary exploration in Negros Occidental, the tour aims to provide participants with a deeper understanding of the places they visit through unique and curated experiences.

Community leader Jocelyn Aligarbes, a participant in last year’s tour, shared her testimonial, encouraging attendees at the launch to consider joining the VIP Tour. Aligarbes highlighted the enjoyment and meaningful interactions she experienced during the previous tour, which covered Iloilo and Boracay.

Tourism Attache Francisco Lardizabal reported that the Philippines welcomed 5.4 million international tourists last year, generating 482.54 billion pesos in foreign visitor receipts. He is encouraging the Filipino American community to join this year’s VIP Tour and become tourism ambassadors. AJPress Photo by Momar G. Visaya

Tourism Attache Francisco Lardizabal provided historical context, mentioning that the VIP Tour started in 2005 to boost tourist numbers in the Philippines. He reported that the Philippines welcomed 5.4 million international tourists last year, generating 482.54 billion pesos in foreign visitor receipts. Looking ahead to 2024, the Department of Tourism targets 7.7 million international visitor arrivals.

Lardizabal emphasized the role of Filipinos living in the US as ambassadors of tourism, stating, “We enjoin at least 300 kababayans in the US as our designated ambassadors of tourism; first experience the Philippines, then help spread the love for the Philippines through the VIP tour.”

Formerly known as the “Ambassador, Consuls General, and Tourism Directors Tour” and then as “The Ambassador’s Tour”, the VIP Tour serves as the flagship tourism program of the Philippine Foreign Services Posts in the United States led by the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, in partnership with the Philippine Department of Tourism and its relevant agencies, the local government units of the featured destinations, the tour handler – Rajah Tours, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

This program was first launched in 2005 under the leadership of former Philippine Ambassador to the United States and later on Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario, and this has enabled Filipino-Americans from all over the United States to revisit their homeland and become tourism ambassadors for the country.

This year is the VIP Tour’s 15th edition following a three-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the tour sets sail this July, participants eagerly anticipate the cultural richness, immersive experiences, and meaningful connections that await them in the beautiful landscapes of the Philippines.

(The Very Important Pinoy Tour (2024 Ambassadors’ Tour) will take place in the Philippines on July 21 to 30, 2024. Led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Department of Tourism’s Tourism Promotions Board and Rajah Tours, the itinerary for the tour combines the best of Metropolitan Manila, Bacolod, and Cagayan de Oro into one adventure-packed and enriching vacation experience. For more information, visit https://viptourphilippines2023.com/) n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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