MANILA,  August 3
, 2004  (MALAYA) By RUBY GONZALEZ - MANILA Japanese Travel Agents and Hoteliers Association (MJTAHA) president Teody Espallardo said the Philippines has regained the trust of the Japanese market as indicated by the 24.6 percent increase of first semester arrival figures.

Tour operators, hotels, resorts and airlines dealing with the market are closely working with the Department of Tourism (DOT) to take advantage of the momentum and further develop the market.

During MHTAHA's general membership meeting held at Hyatt Hotel last week, Arcie Soriano of the DOT's Bureau of International Tourism Promotion (BITP) updated the group with the measure being undertaken by the DOT to support the travel trade's efforts.

Soriano said that work programs for the key markets of North America, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the ASEAN region have been developed based on the consultative meeting in March between the DOT and the travel trade.

The issues and concerns on Japan tackled safety and security, harassment of immigration officers, travel advisories for Boracay and Palawan, quality of tour guides, lack of promotional materials in Japanese and aggressive marketing done by competitors.

In answer to these, the DOT categorized the desired goals into meeting target volume of arrivals, creating awareness, rebuilding image and increasing exposure of Philippine tour packages in the brochures of major tour wholesalers.

The details of the Japanese work program would include prioritizing promotional funding, inviting media and stakeholders from key areas in Japan for fam trips, participating in trade fairs and organizing sale missions. As part of improving materials and awareness campaign, Soriano said that the DOT has printed flyers and brochures and funding has been approved for the development of a DOT website in Japanese that would be hyperlinked to travel websites of accredited Philippine tour operators specializing in the Japanese market.

Espallardo said that MJTAHA will be providing basic Japanese language classes for members and tour guides.

MJTAHA has a counterpart in Japan, the Japan-Philippine Tourism Council (JPTC) whose officers visited Manila in June to forge a stronger relationship with MJTAHA.

A total of 184,223 tourists arrived from Japan between January and June compared to 147,884 during the same period last year.

Much could be done in growing the Japanese market.While it is the top source of tourist arrivals for the Philippines, the country ranks 10th in Japanese outbound destinations.

DOT is batting to attract 380,000 tourists from Japan by year-end. According to Japanese official figures, Japanese outbound is projected to hit 16.4 million by the end of the year.

The Japanese ladies market has big potentials. The Philippines has long been ready and it is just a matter of stimulating this niche market again. During the last decade, Soriano cited that ladies market represented 30 percent of Japanese arrivals to the country. The figure is currently pegged at 5 percent.

In an earlier interview, Espallardo cited the importance of reintroducing products to the Japanese market to sustain its interest in the country despite the Japanese government's decision to continue putting some areas under travel advisory level 2. Among the products that would be highlighted are spa and other wellness trips and diving.

Japan is the biggest source of tourist arrivals for the Philippines. It is followed by the United States, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. The DOT reported that first half tourist arrivals hit 1,140,517, a 32.4 per cent increase over the same period last year. DOT is batting for a record volume of 2.5 million arrivals by year-end. The current record stands at 2.2 million in 1997.

Jojo Clemente, president and general manager of Rajah Tours said 2004 is fast shaping up as the year when the Philippines is starting to attracting overseas tourists once more. The arrival trend is solid and steady. He noted that even during the height of the election period last summer Japan, a very safety- and security-conscious market, continued coming.

The Philippines will have a high profile sales and marketing presence in Japan at the World Expo in Aichi, Nagoya, from March to September of the coming year.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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