DOT Targets Twinning with Asian Neighbors By Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism (DOT) is looking to promote the Philippines as a “twinning” destination with its Asian neighbors, given the growth in the region.  “There is no better time than now to leverage on the dawning of the Asian century. As early as 2014, the other side of the world like the US has begun discovering and rediscovering the Philippines, placing us among the top four preferred destinations along with China, India and Japan,” the tourism chief said during the Philippine business mission held Monday in San Jose, California.

The tourism chief explained that while the destination twinning concept is not new, as it has been an established program of the department in recent years, the DOT is now working to expand this strategy to other emerging markets in the region.
Among the countries she identified were Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Teo revealed that one of the immediate plans of the DOT is strengthening its partnership with the travel trade in the West Coast, which has committed to produce tourists from all over the US to twin destinations of Manila and Bangkok in October this year in time for the memorial service of the King of Thailand.
She added that the tourism department targets to increase its reach into the said markets by 10 percent in the next two years.
Teo said countries in the Asia Pacific region should strengthen their people-to-people exchanges and tourism activities to be able to attract more American tourists into the region.
“We will take advantage of the Americans’ interest in the Philippines, we should strike while the iron is hot and craft all the strategies that can capture the market to the Philippines,” added Purificacion Molintas, tourism attaché in San Francisco.
In line with the importance of connecting with our Asian neighbors, Teo highlighted that travelers from the US visiting the Philippines usually connect through Hong Kong, with some of them flying on to Singapore. 
Citing a 2016 DOT survey, she said these US travelers also prefer Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as connecting flights to the Philippines.
“It is also interesting to note that 15.80 percent of these travelers from the US consider other traditional domestic destinations such as Cebu other than Manila; Palawan (9.30 percent), while 6.60 percent of them go to Pampanga – which has strong affinity with Clark, Subic and La Union, especially among Amer-Asian descents of former US servicemen – and 6.50 percent still consider Boracay a favorite choice,” Teo noted.
She further expressed confidence that this will continue to be commonplace, given the expansion of services of Philippine air carriers to connect the country’s primary and secondary gateways.
“Asia Pacific is considered an ‘exotic area,’ and everybody now is looking at the region as their new destination,” Teo said.
Moreover, Molintas explained that DOT San Francisco recently started implementing this ‘twin-destination’ promotions in collaboration with DOT Los Angeles targeting Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, California and Vancouver.
The tourism department said that its San Francisco branch is also pairing off Manila with Vietnam, with PAL offering special rates for Manila-Saigon and US-Manila-Saigon.  
Teo further encouraged support from stakeholders in implementing ‘twin-destination’ tour packages, one of which is Philippine Airlines, which has been very keen to provide airfares at discounted prices. Other carriers that recently showed support to the Philippine tourism department are Eva Air, which flies to Cebu; Asiana Airlines and Korean Airlines which have added flights from San Francisco to Manila.
“Twinning domestic destinations like Clark with other Asian destinations would be profitable as it is already a secondary gateway to Laoag, Vigan and La Union, extending even to Baguio via TPLEX. Connectivity of our country’s secondary gateways has improved much, making it even more convenient to travel,” Teo explained.
She added that this will pave the way for the less-known and least-traveled destinations to gain prominence. She suggested General Santos City as one of the new destinations, with international boxing champ Manny Pacquiao serving as a good draw.