Saturday, October 21, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
October 22, 2017 issue

Come join the growing number of citizens pushing the Philippine tourism bandwagon to the world. We are all in it together and when we really want something done, something happens. Change.

The latest change we heard this week was a breath of fresh air. After almost six years of being named one of the "worst airports," in the world, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has finally lost its unpalatable tag. 

The influential travel website “Guide To Sleeping in Airports” released its latest survey and showed that our main gateway is no longer on the list of Top 20 worst airports in the world, and Top 5 worst in Asia.

As added bonus, four regional airports in the country again joined the top 25 best airports in Asia for 2017. These are the Iloilo International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Clark International Airport, and Davao International Airport, a repeat of their fine record from 2012.

NAIA was named the world's worst airport from 2011 to 2013. It landed 4th place in 2014 and though it was not included in the Top 10 worst list in year 2015, it was ranked 8th worst airport in Asia and 5th in 2016.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said, the government should not be complacent, as there are still many things to be improved. Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal echoed his remarks, “this is only as good as the last race. The bigger challenge is to maintain or even surpass our achievement." 

World’s best islands

On top of that, Conde Nast, one of the world’s two most influential travel magazines (the other being Travel And Leisure) just named Boracay, Cebu and Palawan as the Top 3 best islands in the world, defeating even world-renowned playgrounds of the rich - Mallorca, Spain; Mykonos, Greece; Bermuda, St. Barts; Turks and Caicos, Bali, Virgin and Cayman Islands, among others.

In 2016, Palawan was chosen by Conde Nast as the most beautiful island in the world, while Travel and Leisure Magazine, chose it as World’s Best Island three times in a row, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“It’s no wonder that Palawan ranked as the most beautiful island in the world. The clear aquamarine water, limestone cliffs, and lagoons of the island province of the Philippines are only some of its most basic highlights," said editor Cynthia Drescher. 

"Palawan is home to nature reserves on both land and sea, with dolphins just offshore, marine gardens of giant clam, sea turtles nesting on white sand beaches, 600 species of butterflies, and lush palm forest like a Gilligan’s Island fever dream," she said.

In choosing Boracay as World’s Best Island for 2017, Conde Nast described Boracay as an “itty-bitty island (just under four square miles) in the Western Philippines that is as close to a tropical idyll as you’ll find in Southeast Asia, with gentle coastlines and spectacular sunsets. Fold in a thriving nightlife scene, and you have one of the top tourist spots in the region.”

It says of Cebu and Visayan islands: “Cebu is the most densely populated island in the Philippines, famous for its beaches on the mainland as well as across its surrounding islands. Not as wild as Phuket in Thailand, Cebu City is more personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping.”

The influential travel magazine exalts Palawan as home to Puerto Princesa’s Underground River, one of Seven Natural Wonders of the World, with one of the longest underground river systems, traveling five miles through a subterranean cave. Karsts and other natural rock formations created by dissolving limestone, loom in every direction, which lovers of nature must see.

One of Asia’s best

Meanwhile, Pangulasian Island in El Nido also won Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards this year. Named one of Asia’s Top Resorts, it was also included in the magazine’s “Gold List 2017: Our Favorite Beach Resorts in the World”. Both prestigious categories were awarded to the resort for two consecutive years.

Over 300,000 travelers and dedicated readers took part in the annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey – submitting thousands of ratings to help create a list of winning favorites. The highly coveted list celebrates and recognizes the “Best in the World” and is also the longest-running recognition of excellence in the travel industry.

Pangulasian Island of El Nido Resorts, also known as the “Island of the Sun”, is right infront of a powdery white sand beach and unspoilt turquoise waters overlooking Bacuit Bay.

The resort offers 42 villas, all with a private balcony, boasting of breathtaking views of both sunrise and sunset. Guests across the globe choose to linger at the island’s floras and faunas, stroll along its 750 meters long beach and snorkel to encounter its mesmerizing underwater scenery and diverse marine life.

Bring Home A Friend

Amidst a fiesta celebration, the Department of Tourism relaunched “Bring Home a Friend to the Philippines”, aimed at raising inbound tourism figures and spur more economic activity in the country. 

Introduced by Mina Gabor, former Tourism Secretary in 1994, the promotion hopes to receive positive reaction from the United States, Japan, Middle East and Hongkong. “These are the places where a lot of Filipino communities are. Eventually, we hope to spur more travel from other areas, DOT Secretary Wanda Teo said.

“Bring Home a Friend is our shout-out to the world to come and see the Philippines: a country of diverse cultures, rich traditions, and unrivaled biodiversity,” the Secretary added. Participating officers from different tourism industry associations, foreign diplomatic community, congress, support government agencies and media promised to give their all-out support to the program.

The promotion can win Filipinos an upscale condo from Megaworld, a brand new Toyota Vios or a P200,000 Duty Free shopping when they invite friends to visit the Philippines on their next vacation. A music video featuring movie matinee idol Piolo Pascual was especially created to create awareness for the program.

Tourist arrivals up by 12.7% 

Tourism is poised to become the country’s top dollar-earning industry as Philippine lawmakers rallied behind Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo to mount an “all-out promotion campaign,” as she disclosed yet another double-digit increase in international visitor arrivals for the first semester.

“Amidst setbacks and mounting challenges, tourist arrivals are way up. Beefing up the DOT’s war chest, at least restoring it to its previous level (P1B), would go a long way in boosting our branding campaign, expected to be at par with those of our Asian neighbors,” Teo stressed.
“In the face of challenges, the country continued to receive the growing influx of tourists from across the globe, desiring to see our world-class destinations and experience the renowned Filipino hospitality,” Teo said. During the congressional hearing, the DOT chief reiterated the agency’s commitment to a more competitive branding campaign as it sets higher targets for the coming year.

More foreign tourists have arrived in the Philippines this year, staying for more days and spending more money, as indicated by the data collected by the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) for the month of January.

“We have to keep the momentum going now that we are in the implementation phase of the Tourism Development Plan for 2017-2022, which aims to unleash the potentials of our tourism industry and make it more competitive,” Teo said.

Emerging tourist destinations

With a relentless push in promoting other undiscovered destinations, the Philippines is on the road to achieving its tourism arrival goals. As more infrastructure and development are realized, it is expected to pole vault from where it is now to the elite club of Asian tourism.

Baler and Siargao are now becoming surfing capitals of Asia. Bohol and the Bicol region continue to mesmerize. The beguiling islands of Romblon and Siquijor are now on the bucket list of new tourists. There are many more to explore in this archipelago of more than 7,100 beautiful islands. All you need is just pack your bags and book a ticket.

Friday, October 13, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
October 14, 2017 issue

For the coming Chinese Lunar New Year, a businessman from Manila is organizing a reunion of his immediate relatives, not from Binondo, but from Fujian, China. This is not going to be the usual gathering of about ten or fifteen people. It is going to reach about a thousand. He was so upbeat he even put up a travel agency business, catering mostly to tourists in that part of the mainland. 
There are approximately 1.5 million Filipinos with pure Chinese ancestry, or around 1.8% of the population. Most of them are still in touch with their families in China. If each of them would bring, let’s say, three people, imagine what the figure would be.
Close family ties are making many Chinese plan their next clan reunions in the Philippines. There are the Ongs, the Tans, the Liaos, the Pes and many more. Suddenly, the upsurge is very evident and you can see that it is happening.
Chinese tourists are similarly ‘invading’ Paris, London, Rome, New York, Moscow, Athens and other destinations in the world. An international business magazine reports that “over an eight-fold increase in the number of overseas trips were made by Chinese travelers - from 10 million, who traveled to other countries in year 2000”.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China was already the top tourist source market in the world as early as 2012. The outbound travelers grew by a double-digit figure after that. By 2014, it reached 107 million, and the number breached the 120 million mark in 2015, up 16 percent over the previous year. That was also corroborated by the China Tourism Academy, a research institution under the China National Tourism Administration.
The Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast had said outbound Chinese travelers could number around 174 million by 2019, spending about $264 billion annually. That's roughly equivalent to the GDP of a developed country like Singapore.

In the Philippines, China dislodged the United States for the second spot, registering 90,763 and 86,017 arrivals, respectively. Korea remained the country’s biggest market, registering 132,135 arrivals for the first six months of the year.

Bang the gong. Beijing apparently is making good its promise to send more tourists to the Philippines. The sharp increase of arrivals from China, a 76.48 percent growth from January last year, was worth Php 8.89 billion. 

“We are now seeing the fruits of our country’s effort in reaching out to China. Doors to more economic opportunities and people-to-people exchanges are wider now. Ties between Manila and Beijing have seen a new day,” according to Secretary of Tourism Teo.

“Ni Hao” From China
Chinese overseas travelers make up a sizable group of consumers, acclaimed as the world's largest and “most favorable spenders”. They spent $164.8 billion overseas in 2014, a fourfold increase over year 2008, and 88 percent was spent on shopping, the China Tourism Academy reported.

About 400,000 Chinese spent around $833.7 million in Japan in year 2015. Four million visited Thailand on the same year but the biggest spending surprise came from Australia, where Chinese spent $5.6 billion in 12 months. The number exceeded the spending by the British, Americans and Canadians combined.

The official tourism board of United Kingdom expects Chinese travelers to be spending more than $1.47 billion in year 2020. A Hurun/International Luxury Travel Market Asia report released in May 2015 said: “Half of all super-rich travelers flew business class in 2014, compared to one-third the previous year. 

World Tourism Organization credits rapid urbanization, rising disposable income and the relaxation of government restrictions on foreign travel for the upsurge of Chinese outbound travel to the world.

CNN also reported that China leaped to first place, surpassing both top-spender Germany and the United States (both close to US$84 billion) in 2012. Though the report did not break down spending per trip among international travelers, total spend by number of trips suggests that Chinese travelers averaged $1,230 per trip. 

Industry observers say, the growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects a growing middle class from these countries, which will surely continue to change the map of world tourism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council also projects that China will be one of the 10 fastest growing markets for leisure travel spending through 2026. The chart below shows the world’s ten largest source markets for outbound tourism spending in 2016.

Top 10 Markets: Outbound Tourist Spending in 2016
Spending ($U.S.)
% Growth Over 2015
$221 billion
$122 billion
$81 billion
$64 billion
$41 billion
$29 billion
$27 billion
$27 billion
$25 billion
Hong Kong
$24 billion
Source: UNWTO

Philippine as hot destination

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism said the implementation of the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) program could make China as a top source of visitors to the Philippines. 

The Department of Justice’s favorable action on the DOT’s long-standing proposal to ease the visa rules and procedures, to implement the VUA for Chinese visitors could lead to that.

DOT Secretary Teo had pressed for DOJ's approval and implementation of the VUA, to help push the country as a rightful competitor in international tourism industry. "We believe this will serve as an incentive to Chinese guests who may be prospective investors wanting to prove that the country is not only a safe haven for tourists but also a lucrative business location," Teo said.

Following President Duterte’s state visit to China in mid-October 2016 and the lifting of Beijing’s travel restriction to the Philippines, Chinese arrivals surged to 675,663 by yearend, up by 37.65 percent from 490,841 in 2015.

The phenomenal increase in Chinese arrivals continued into the first half of 2017 as it jumped 33.44 percent with 454,962 visitors compared to last year’s 340,958.

"Accommodating our visiting Chinese friends with a visa grant upon arrival will only help keep the momentum of massive influx of Chinese tourists to the country, Teo said.​

More global brands in DF shops 

At the recently-concluded 2017 Duty Free & Travel Retail Global Summit held at Cannes, France, Secretary Teo said, 
“The Philippines is in a position to join the ranks of countries whose Duty Free industry is expected to grow by an average of 40 percent in the next decade.” 

She expressed optimism that the global premium brands are now looking to increase their presence in the Philippines in anticipation of the steady growth in arrival of Chinese tourists. “Bringing in global premium brands would be an additional incentive to attract more Chinese tourists, particularly the luxury segment,” Secretary Teo said.

The summit was a flagship event of the Tax Free World Association (TFWA), a much-attended duty free industry event that combines a shop window for premium brands, experts forum and the chance to network with key influencers. 
515 companies registered as exhibitors based on 472 booths.

Philippines-China tourism strategies
To boost renewed tourism cooperation between the Philippines and China, Filipino and Chinese tourism officials have programmed an array of activities. These are series of meetings on communications campaigns, familiarization trips for media and tour operators, tourism-related workshops and capacity building sessions for travel professionals, as well as official visits by tourism heads and joint travel fairs, to be held in the Philippines and China.  
Total tourist arrivals from China to different Southeast Asian countries numbered 18.5 million, an increase of 42.4 percent compared to 2014. Total number of visitors from ASEAN countries to China was 6.5 million, an increase of 6.3 percent compared to 2014. 
What does that mean to Philippine tourism? With the average annual growth of 15.7 per cent for two-way visitor-traffic between China and ASEAN for the past five years, it is projected that the target goal of 30 million mutual visits will be realized by 2020. 

The progress in the implementation of the ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement and its protocol has facilitated air connectivity between the Southeast Asia destinations and China.
Since the agreement’s enactment, 37 cities located in the ASEAN member-states were connected with 52 cities in China through more than 4,900 direct flights per week. More actions among ASEAN-China committees concerned with aviation cooperation will further support the development of tourism in the region.
Tourist arrivals up by 12.7%
Tourism is poised to become the country’s top dollar-earning industry as Philippine lawmakers rallied behind DOT Secretary Teo to mount an “all-out promotion campaign,” as she disclosed yet another double-digit increase in international visitor arrivals for the first semester.

“Amidst setbacks and mounting challenges, tourist arrivals are way up. Beefing up the DOT’s war chest, at least restoring it to its previous level (P1B), would go a long way in boosting our branding campaign, expected to be at par with those of our Asian neighbors,” Teo stressed.

“In the face of challenges, the country continued to receive the growing influx of tourists from across the globe, desiring to see our world-class destinations and experience the renowned Filipino hospitality,” Teo said. During the congressional hearing, the DOT chief reiterated the agency’s commitment to a more competitive branding campaign as it sets higher targets for the coming year.

More foreign tourists have arrived in the Philippines this year, staying for more days and spending more money, as indicated by the data collected by the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) for the month of January. 

“We have to keep the momentum going now that we are in the implementation phase of the Tourism Development Plan for 2017-2022, which aims to unleash the potentials of our tourism industry and make it more competitive,” Teo said.

Friday, October 6, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
October 7, 2017 issue

Let’s avoid the fancy titles. Let’s just call them Creative Directors. 

Creative Director A is former boss of Creative Director B. The former transfers to another advertising agency but the creative umbilical cord between the two remains rubbery strong.

Creative Director C is from a competing ad agency. For some reasons, he doesn’t get invited to chi-chi parties and other industry events where CDs A and B are always present.

Creative Director D is from a local ad agency. He wants to penetrate deep into the inner circle of A and B but always ends up an outsider. Reason: He is not from a multinational ad agency. 

Creative Director E is a charming social butterfly and with an odd foreign accent. She spends more precious executive hours in industry meetings rather than brainstorm with her agency wards. She also gets invitations to judge more than what she could chew. 

Creative Director F is a protégé of an industry ‘kingmaker’. She is a remnant of an old epoch. She has been in advertising when digital was still an unknown territory.

All these characters are fictitious. But they are becoming real.

Picture all of them in a high profile judging. Walk through the cocktails’ ‘beso-beso". Listen to the echoing guffaws of self-proclaimed gods and goddesses of advertising. Come closer, baby. Have you been phubbed?

("Phubbing", combination of "phone" and "snubbing"). To be phubbed is to be snubbed by someone using a celfone while in your company and not paying attention.

As you mingle and hear red wine glasses clinking, and see the hors d’oeuvres cleaned off the trays, you hear the head of jury: “Time to scrutinize the entries.”

He makes a speech and reminds that you abstain from voting for your agency’s entries. Hmm, who will give out fat zeroes or perfect 10s? Let’s see.

After rounds of voting, score sheets are turned over to an auditing firm. The shortlist and the final list of winners are not supposed to leak. Even media are told to embargo the news prior to “The Big Night”, also called the gnashing of teeth and moment of whining.

Biases in advertising award judging? Let’s face it, they have been talked about for many years. Some people don’t want to speak up because it may doom their career. But we’ve seen one or two big ad agency networks, at certain times, expressed their sentiments, even declaring not participating.

Ivan Raszl, owner of one of the world’s most browsed advertising creativity sites, “Ads of the World”, says: “The credibility of some awards is very low because we are awarding ourselves. A multinational head of creative, judges another multinational ad agency work, and vice versa.

“Just the night before, they both drink and party together on the same beach. The industry is small and all big shots know each other. It's just unrealistic to expect from people who know each other and most of the time, respect and like each other, to be objective. If they hate each other, it's even worse. Their decisions will be consciously or unconsciously affected by their personal relationship,” he continues.

Raszl notes that independent fashion journalists and critiques judge fashion shows. Independent safety and other authorities rank new models in car shows. “It would be inconceivable and ridiculous if Vivienne Westwood were to judge Tommy Hilfiger's work, or if Ford were to rate Volvo's safety ratings. Yet, that's exactly what the advertising industry does,” he says.

Independent, third party judging

The solution to this uncomfortable situation, according to Raszl, is to create juries that consist of one or a mix of real consumers (like a trial jury), clients or independent advertising critiques, probably made up of journalists from major ad publications. 

“When creatives judge their fellow creatives in awards shows, one might argue that it's a good way to ensure strong work. Others might argue, it gets a bit ‘incestuous’,” Adweek, another global advertising trade magazine, says.

Epica Awards

Founded in 1987, Epica is the only major ad industry awards show judged solely by journalists working for marketing and communications publications around the world. It highlights that its judges are journalists who are largely detached from the personal relationships of advertising—and even barred from judging work from their home countries.

We personally interviewed Mark Tungate, a British Journalist and author of "The Epica Book", Adland: A Global History of Advertising and other subjects specializing on media, branding, travel, lifestyle trends. He is also a favorite speaker at conferences around the world. Here he is:

Apart from being the only awards show judged by Journalists around the world, what makes Epica an important award show? 

Tungate: I think the answer is in the question. The fact that we have this unique jury of journalists means that we’re entirely objective and unbiased. None of our jurors are going to vote for or against a piece of work depending on whether they once worked at the agency, or they’re in the same network, or a rival network. They are interested in great work, that’s all. I’d also say Epica, as an event, is one of the few places where the worlds of journalism and creativity overlap. But as communities, both agencies and journalists are storytellers. So they can learn from one another.

Has the number of entries to Epica Awards grown over the last 3 to 5 years? If yes, how many percent? 

Well, we’re a fairly modest awards show and the number of entries has stayed fairly stable at around 4,000 a year. In fact in 2016 the exact number was 3,800, a 2% increase on the previous year. Obviously, it would be nice to have more, as the fridge in our staff kitchen needs replacing, but at the same time, we’re not greedy or money grabbing. Having said that, the mix has changed slightly. We get more entries from independent agencies now - in fact they make up around 50% of our entries - while the networks tend to enter slightly less work, but of a very high quality.

Who designed the Epica logo and why was it named that way? 

We rebranded a couple of years back. Our website and logo were designed by an agency called Vasava, in Barcelona. They’re extremely talented friends of mine: we worked together years ago on a book about the history of the jeans brand Diesel. The pyramid represents the peak of success, of course, while the black lines represent lines of print. Epica stands for the Editors’ and Publishers’ International Creative Awards.

Would AI (Artificial Intelligence) invade advertising in the future? 

There have been a few recent examples of agencies experimenting with AI, but they remain fairly anecdotal for the time being. It’s true that chatbots are being used as marketing tools and replacing customer help departments. But I’m pretty confident there will always be room for human creativity. Our foibles, anxieties and strange obsessions are also what make us effective creators. Could an artificially intelligent human being make the film “Blade Runner”, which is essentially, a discourse on what it means to be human? I don’t think so. 

Without newspaper journalists, would respect for other Journalists diminish? 

Seriously, I think the image of the incorruptible newspaper journalist, seeking after the truth, is a romantic one that continues to have a certain allure. That’s certainly what attracted me to journalism as a young man. That and Tintin, obviously. But in today’s world, I’m not sure it’s possible to be “just” a newspaper journalist. You have to be skilled at video, social media and even podcasting. The journalist of today is a multimedia one.

What would be the medium of the future, let’s say in the next 5 to 7 years? 

Interestingly I think certain high-quality print media will survive. Newspapers and magazines will be regarded as artisanal, almost luxury items, rather in the way that vinyl records are today. I’m a great believer in what I call “analogue snobbery”.

Books are going that way, too. But it seems certain that the vast majority of media will be consumed on mobile devices. I read The New York Times on my phone every morning. Having said that, at the weekend I tend to buy the hefty print version and sit at a café poring over it. It’s the difference between taking a quick shower,or wallowing in a bath.

How extensive are you reaching out to Asian markets? 

Getting better, I would say. Last year we had gold winners from the Philippines (two, in fact!), India, Japan and Taiwan. We also had entries from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and of course Thailand, which is a very creative market. Part of the problem is that we’re based in Paris so we can’t travel extensively in Asia promoting the awards. Got a fridge to pay for, you know.

There are some people who don’t believe in awards, your thoughts?

Not everyone likes awards, but everyone likes to win one. Plus, agencies like to measure themselves against the competition, in my experience. It’s true that awards require an investment, and many of the shows have become rather expensive to enter, but at the same time they motivate hard-working staff and build creative careers. It’s pretty difficult to say “I’m one of the world’s most creative people” without being able to prove it in some way. Awards help with that. I could tell you I’m an author but sooner or later you’re going to want to see one of my books.

 Tungate’s latest book, "The Escape Industry", history of travel industry from the perspective of its most iconic brands, was launched in Europe last week and will be rolled to the US market on October 28, 2017. Interested parties who may want their work judged objectively, may log on to