by ABDUL HANNAN TAGO
The catchy “It’s more fun in the Philippines” promotional scheme launched by Philippine Airlines (PAL) to attract tourists seems to be paying off, particularly with PAL poised to resume flights to the Kingdom beginning in December.
The number of tourist arriving from Saudi Arabia is expected to go up dramatically with PAL scheduled to operate flights to and from Riyadh starting Dec. 1 and to and from Dammam on Dec. 4. PAL has also thrown in incentives for those who book on or before the scheduled dates to lure tourists from the Kingdom.
The turnaround can be attributed to the current administration’s performance in terms of economic recovery and good governance restoring confidence not only among investors but also tourist
s visiting the country from across the world, said Datu Camad M. Ali, executive president, Southern Philippines Muslim-Non Muslim Unity & Development Association Inc. (SPMUDA), an International NGO based in the Philippines promoting Philippine tourism through its global network.
According to the Tourism Research and Statistics Division (TRSD) at the Philippine Tourism Department (DOT), visitor arrivals in January to March reached a record high of 1.27 million, including 30,000 from Saudi Arabia, a 10.76 percent increase from 1.15 million arrivals for the corresponding period in 2012.
Likewise, visitor arrivals for March saw a double-digit increase of 11.28 percent with 417,392 visitors compared to the previous year’s volume of 375,083. This is the fourth consecutive month that the volume of arrivals passed the 400,000 mark.
This upward trend could be attributed to the upcoming summer season, which is a peak season for the tourism industry.
This is the second time under Benigno S. Aquino’s administration that the tourism sector has been able to maintain 1 million arrivals for the first quarter of the year, Ali told Arab News.
Based on this record, the country could reach its annual tourists ar
rival target of 5.5 million by the end of 2013. The same report showed that South Korea remains the leading tourist destination followed by the United States.
The “It’s more fun in the Philippines” program has shown a positive outcome in the tourism sector that actively promoted nature and adventure, beaches, multi-culture, lifestyle and water sports activities in the country.
The country’s tourism agency for the first time participated in the 5th Riyadh Travel Fair 2013 that took place in April. Manila had allocated 13 billion pesos to develop what it calls “Tourism Roads” all over the country. The Philippines is the third largest English-speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese.
Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprising European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago.
In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence