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WTM UPDATE: The price of popularity & protecting the Philippines

Over-tourism and sustainability have been a key focus for many of the exhibitors at this year’s WTM and nowhere has this been more keenly felt than for the Philippines.

With lessons learned following Boracay, the Philippines Department of Tourism is looking at new ways to engage with its visitors and is advocating a significant shift towards responsible stewardship. 

Drastic action was required after an ever-increasing rise in tourist numbers began to turn Boracay into what was dubbed a “cesspool” by the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, leading to its closure earlier this year. After a six-month clean-up operation, the island has opened once again but now with visitor caps and new regulations. Marie Venus Q. Tan, chief operating officer for the Tourism Promotions Board, said: “I think we've made a very bold step in doing so, especially in the middle of the peak period; it’s a message that it’s not about money, it’s not about business coming in, but about ‘protection’ more than anything else. We now believe in responsible stewardship.”

Going forward the tourism organisation expressed a desire to move beyond regional, geographical positioning of incoming visitation and instead look to drawing tourists out of interest driven motivation; a marketing strategy based on ‘psychographics’ rather than demographics.

Tan concluded: “The world of travel has changed paradigms - people are no longer just chasing after a beautiful waterfall, they're coming because of their interests. We've already communicated that we have diversity but what sets the Philippines apart is its people and its unique culture and that's what we're going to build on as a drawing marketing strategy. We're building now on our own strengths and what brings tourism to the destination is how experiential a visitor’s holiday can be in the destination with local people as we build on the interests they might have.”


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