MANILA — Gone are the days when the Philippine tourism industry depended solely on individual foreign tourist arrivals to boost the country’s economy.
Looking in the near future, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is relying on MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tourism to attain a 22 percent growth in foreign tourist arrivals by 2016.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. on Thursday said that it is about time that the DOT seize chance to turn the Philippines into a destination for MICE.
He expressed enthusiasm in line with the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia 2014 to be held on May 22 to 24 this year in Manila.
“The reason why conferences are increasing in the Philippines is that the Philippine business community is now more confident to invite their regional and global organizations to meet in the Philippines,” Jimenez said in an interview.
“Before, executives in the Philippines hesitated to raise their hands if they were asked if their home country would be available for venue for regional or global conference. Now, they’re all volunteering,” he added.
Jimenez further said the tourism sector’s success could owe it to the Aquino administration’s efforts to turn tourism into a full-blown industry that drives inclusive growth.
“You’re seeing a lot more regional and global conference for private corporations which is actually the core of MICE,” he said.
The tourism chief noted that growth in MICE tourism is increasing as a result of economic improvements in the Philippines.
He said that it also helped that the Philippines had the geographical reality of cutting travel time for Asian countries in half.
“If you’re Japanese or Korean, you’re less than four hours away from Manila – similar if you’re Malaysian or Singaporean; just a little bit more than five hours if you’re from Jakarta. Everyone else is about seven hours away from each other,” Jimenez said.
“We’re not exactly a huge venue but we’re a very efficient venue because we have a lot of services that require for high power meetings-.
The fact that the Philippines was known for its English-speaking staff, experienced secretariat and business processes that can be passed through very quickly all contribute to making the country an ideal venue for MICE.
“Why is it economically exciting? Our income from one MICE conference is about six times our income from regular tourism,” he said without mentioning digits.
“If we had more MICE arrivals and less individual arrivals (we) would actually make more money,” he added.