Fil-Am community welcomes new tourism director to LA

MEMBERS of the Filipino-American community in Los Angeles officially welcomed Richmond Jimenez as the new tourism director at the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) office in this city.

Jimenez, who will serve in the position for the next three years, said that the department is seeking new ways to creatively attracted Filipinos and non-Filipinos living abroad to visit the Philippines.

“What we would like to happen right now is that we actually want a two-way road, a two-way exchange of ideas,” he said in his remarks at a meet and greet event on Wednesday, March 9. “Let’s actually have a conversation and communicate more because…we would like to invite people to see why the Philippines is a great nation and see how the Filipinos are. We’re known for our hospitality and more than the beaches and more than the sights, it’s the experience.”

According to Jimenez, one of his priorities right now is to encourage airlines and travel agencies to provide more flights and enticing and affordable packages for those who want to visit the Philippines.

“We actually need the support of the private sector because we can’t do it all by ourselves. The reason why the tourism industry is booming in the country is because of the support of the private institutions who open their doors and support the industry,” he told the Asian Journal.

Jimenez joined the DOT in 2014 as a tourism operations officer for the Russia, India, Middle East and Europe desk and as a supervising tourism operations officer for the Americans division. Prior to that, he was with the US Embassy in Manila for over 12 years as a country coordinator and a special consular assistant for emergency services to Americans living and traveling in the Philippines.

He said joining the DOT was a way to do something more for the Philippines.

For this year, the DOT launched the “Visit the Philippines Again 2016” marketing campaign, with the target of 6 million international visitors. In 2015, arrivals reached 5.36 million — 4.8 million of which were foreign visitors — and contributed an estimated $5 billion to the economy.

Recent reports revealed that 500,000 visitors arrived in the country this past January. Korea and the United States remain the top two contributors of visitors to the country, according to the department.

Another one of Jimenez’s top priorities during his stint here will be to market to millennials, who are more adventurous than older generations.

“In terms of targeting millennials, we would have to change our strategy. We have to strategize our promotional activities and one of the reasons why we’re here is to study the market and see what are the effective means in order for us to grab that particular audience,” he said, adding that the country offers other activities for those who aren’t into diving or wellness, like voluntourism (a combination of both volunteering and tourism).

He added, “They’d actually like to go to places where people haven’t been to. What we need to do is come up with an actual product that will entice all these millennials to come over. We really need to be creative and live like a millennial and see what it is that they’re looking for.”

In drawing more foreign visitors, the DOT has been sponsoring and promoting large events. One of the upcoming events is the second annual Madrid Fusión Manila on April 7-9, a gastronomic event featuring Michelin-star chefs from around the world and the most respected in the Philippines. The MTV Music Evolution 2016 in May is also scheduled for music-lovers and the 2016 Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in August for sports and outdoor enthusiasts.

“Right now, our priority is to invite as many mainstream Americans to the Philippines. We would actually want to ignite the census of our millennials — the second and third-generation of Filipinos — to realize that the Philippines is out there [with] so much to learn, and that there are so many fun things to do,” Jimenez said.

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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