How to get more tourists from Europe
My friend Paul, a Swiss business executive who has retired in Argao town, southern Cebu wrote:
“A couple of days ago, I read in Cebu Daily News that you have conducted a panel discussion (or something like it) on the subject of how to boost tourism in Cebu. Here are some unsolicited thoughts pertaining to that subject.
“I was a frequent business traveler all over the world, including Europe, Russia, the United States, Canada, the Middle East, Far East and Australia. That left me with some experience in traveling. Maybe because I have been living in Cebu for many years, I have also tried, albeit (almost) unsuccessfully, to promote some tourism in Cebu. Let me, however, limit my comments to European travelers.
“European travelers choose their destinations at home, either based on previous good experience or on solid information and recommendation. Therefore, it is mandatory that such solid information about a possible destination be easily available to them. Attractive destinations must be presented and sold to them.
“Recently, we checked, among others, what some travel agencies in Prague (Czechs are frequent-traveling people) actually offer as destinations in the Philippines. Their only offer is a 16-day package including: arrival in Manila, city tour, further to Baguio, back to Manila and further to Boracay, further to Palawan, further to Cebu, three hours city tour, same day further to Bohol, back to Manila and back to Europe. Honestly, I already get exhausted if I just imagine the stress these tourists have to undergo (suffer). In this program, however, Cebu is just a stopover to change from plane to vessel. The actual destination is Bohol.
“Europeans can generally be classified into three groups or categories of travelers:
“First, young singles or couples with no children. They can travel freely within the constraints of their vacation time. But many of them are adventure-seeking backpackers, not big spenders.
“Second, families with children. A majority of them will not travel overseas, given limited vacation time (which is scheduled by the schools), limited budget (family traveling is expensive). Thus, they will go for destinations closer to home.
“Third, couples with grown up children and retirees. Couples with grown up children are free to travel within their scheduled vacation time. Retirees are free to travel all year round. This is an interesting category because they have the time. Many of them also have the money. Many of them have worked hard and want to see a bit of the world now. Retirees, out of a job, tend to be bored, and tend to kill their boredom with action, which means they travel far and often.
“Consider that Germany alone presently counts more than 17 million retirees, of which one solid third certainly has the means to spend on traveling. How many retirees live all over Europe, I do not know, but an impressive figure, by all means.
“Now, why don’t more of these people come to Cebu? Because Cebu cannot be reached easily? Because Cebu is not attractive enough? Because Cebu is not ready to accommodate foreign tourists? Because Cebu is not safe? Not at all. They do not come because Cebu is not known.
Cebu is not properly promoted. Check the Philippine Travel Atlas, to begin with, what it says about Bohol and what it says about Cebu. If you have read that, then your choice is clear: you will decide for Bohol! That means no less than the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) itself, at least during director (Dawnie) Roa’s time, promoted Bohol a lot more than it did Cebu.
“DOT-7 Director (Rowena) Montecillo argued that Cebu should first become ready to accommodate foreign tourists properly, and she certainly has a point there. However, this readiness will not be achieved by a little local action here, and a little local action there. It will certainly not be achieved when done by local Cebuanos alone—no offense intended—who don’t have much of an idea what a European tourist expects, and what a European tourist might find interesting and attractive.
“Therefore, a competent working group should be formed, the members of which have experience in international traveling AND in foreign (European) expectations and standards. This working group should coordinate and guide all these per se positive local actions.
“Once this home work is sufficiently done, then Cebu has to promote itself overseas. In Europe, there are so-called holiday fairs every early spring (from January to March, actually). That is where you have to be present with the right and complete documentation, and the right and competent people, and there you will meet the travel agency personnel who are the ones who will sell your product.
“Because European travelers choose their destination at home, remember?”
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