Thailand

Travel agencies: Tourism can still do wonders to win tourists’ favor for PHL

Travel agencies: Tourism can still do wonders to win tourists’ favor for PHL


In a timely response to the retaliatory tourism that has emerged around the world — with almost all borders around the world reopening to foreign tourists in the wake of the pandemic — the Department of Tourism (DOT) has launched its latest campaign slogan: “Love the Philippines,” showing A variety of lovely products from this island nation.

However, this did little to cheer the tourism industry itself, as it drew harsh criticism from critics, not least from attackers on social media who mocked it.

The controversy continues as it made headlines recently with reports that the creator of a promotional video promoting the “Pearl of the Orient” as a resort admitted to using footage from other countries.

Amid all the problems facing the industry as a whole, Dennis Plaza, owner of Juanderer Travels, hopes that these in turn will do wonders for industry change and win back the favor of local and foreign tourists.

“When it comes to natural beauty or attractions, the Philippines is really beautiful. But it’s not just for the right market that has money and is willing to spend it,” he told reporters in a recent online interview.

According to him, the country still has a lot of work to do to allow tourists here and from other parts of the world to visit the majestic island for the first time after being stuck at home during the peak lockdown. During the Covid-19 crisis, you can experience a variety of must-see places, culture, traditions, food and the hospitality of the people.

There are many “lovely” places in the Philippines, and he’s sure they’ll have all the more reasons to come back again and again, as they have over the past few years or decades.

unexpected journey

A traveler himself, Plaza could not have imagined that his love of exploring different places would lead him to his current position – an entrepreneur with a Destination Management Company (DMC).

His entity, Juanderer Travels, is a brand name, registered as JTH Travel And Tours, whose roots can be traced back to Davao City in 2013, when he started organizing tours for his circle of friends, mostly to Surigao.

“I realized you could get discounts from suppliers, especially like hotels where you could get specials. So why not do it as a business?” he recalls.

Two years later, Plaza moved to Manila and continued to organize tours—this time opening up new destinations in Northern Luzon, including Baguio, Ilocos, Sagada and Sorsogon. Taking his newfound opportunity seriously, he incorporated Juanderer Travels in the Philippines.

Since his startup was still in its infancy at the time, he couldn’t resist accepting the opportunity to work in Phuket, Thailand in 2016. He was hired by an event and DMC there to run their business development.

Working in the events and destinations sector, he has developed a strong network with suppliers such as hotels and attractions centres. This prompted him to bring and register Juanderer Travels to Thailand in 2018.

However, the take-off of his operations in Kahn Towers, Rizal and Bangkok, as well as a satellite office in Phuket, was halted by the pandemic in 2020, when movement was restricted due to the rapid spread of Covid-19. Unlike other entities of its type, Juanderer Travels is still operating and paying taxes despite the owners reporting zero income.

“I used the time of the pandemic to market and plan our reopening. I didn’t stop posting on Facebook. I built a website,” said Plaza, who is also the company’s current managing director (MD). “Thankfully, Thailand is the first country to reopen at the end of 2021.”

As business resumed, the agency began expanding tours to other parts of Europe and Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam. Its registration in Thailand has also been renewed this year.

“Business has been good until today. Although I am very eager to continue my business, I am still working because I don’t know what will happen in the future,” shared the enterprising OFW, who is already in Bangkok Lived alone for many years as he had no immediate family to support anymore.

Business as usual

Given its two locations, the travel agency brings tourists mainly from the Philippines to Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket in Thailand, as well as the other foreign destinations mentioned above. Domestically, its local tourism includes Baguio, Boracay, Cebu, Ilocos, Sagada and Siargao.

“Ninety percent of our clients are Filipino. They really love to travel,” Plaza says of their clientele, who are mostly first-time travelers. “They have a 90 percent chance of obstructing the immigration process.”

Groups of seven overall travel on average two to three times a week. “There are about 15 to 20 groups in a month (in all the locations we offer),” he noted.

By location, Bangkok accounted for 70 percent of guests’ “preferred” locations, the Philippines 20 percent, and the remainder were anywhere in the other domestic and foreign destinations they covered.

“People from other countries like solo backpackers and they want Siargao, Boracay or Cebu — the beach and the sea,” adds Plaza.

challenge

Juanderer Travels’ vision is to be the leader in cross-border travel management in Thailand and the Philippines and seeks to cater for travelers from other countries traveling to global destinations with proven and trusted services in its growing market.

“Therefore, the company’s target and direction are tourists from Western countries and Americans traveling to Thailand,” he revealed.

He hopes to further promote his country to foreign tourists, but admits that it is “difficult to promote the Philippines” due to various challenges faced by travel agencies like the Philippines.

Plaza recommends that the local tourism industry focus more on attracting corporate clients to the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector rather than backpackers or nomads. He described them as “the right market” who have the money and are willing to spend it.

To encourage them to come here, the tourism infrastructure and facilities that are currently lacking must be further expanded and improved, he said. These include an ample fleet of limousines and other service vehicles, as well as cruise ships or yachts suited to the requirements of senior executives traveling for business and pleasure anywhere in the country.

The travel agency owner also pointed to the slow application process and low approval rate for visas and other travel documents in the country. For example, Juanderer Travels recently booked a small group tour for 7 June consisting of 17 Vietnamese and 5 Indians due to visa refusal for the latter’s nationality.

Adding insult to injury is the lack of direct flights from abroad to various local destinations, not to mention concerns over incidents of unjustified unloading of migrants, and flight delays and cancellations due to spate of airport shutdowns.

While the main selling point of the Philippines is its nature and scenic attractions, the downside is the distance between tourist destinations, causing tourists to spend a lot of travel time due to the country’s archipelagic geography. Additionally, he hinted at the need for tourists to be more “immersed” in the country’s culture and traditions, and to proactively develop potential tourist attractions.

“Recently we had seven Thais and three Chinese who only went to Manila. So the challenge was that they were taken to Luneta and Intramuros. They enjoyed it. But obviously, those places weren’t very suitable for posting on Instagram. With Bangkok is different, they have many attractions. In addition to temples, they also transformed canals and even train stations into night markets.” Prasa emphasized.

“These are the systems or strategies that the Philippines should adopt to win more tourists, especially corporate accounts and incentive markets,” he added.





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