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How Philippines is seeking to attract more British tourists

2 February 2015 - Edward Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

The Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) in London unveiled its latest campaign during a recent event at the Marriott Hotel in Kensington.

Doubling-up as an appreciation night, it was attended by travel industry professionals who have been promoting why ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’.

The new campaign focuses on five themes: business meetings, history and culture, lifestyle and entertainment, music and arts, and sports, adventure and eco-tourism.

It highlights a mixture of festivals and events – including concerts in Manila by international artists like Bastille and One Direction – while also promoting the country’s culture, heritage and nature spots like Palawan’s Puerto Princesa Underground River – one of the world’s New7Wonders of Nature.

To support this drive, 135 vehicles sporting the new VPY branding were rolled out onto the streets of London at the beginning of January.

In a presentation, the DOT celebrated the increase in the number of Britons visiting the Philippines.

It says 91,009 British nationals visited the southeast-Asian nation in 2009, compared to 2014, where the figure had risen to approximately 135,000.

A hundred and ten iconic black taxis now feature destinations like Banaue and Bohol, 15 buses showcase places like Cagayan de Oro, Vigan, Surigao, Davao, Vigan and Cebu, and 10 new routemasters promote Boracay and Palawan.

“I’m getting stopped on the street from all varieties of races, religions, creeds – just asking generally to take a picture of the cab. People are smiling, saying, “I live there”, explained Sacha Wingard, who drives a taxi promoting Mayon Volcano in Albay.

“I’ve got some friends from there. Never been myself, would love to go,” he added.

Someone who did go to the Philippines recently was food journalist Rupert Parker, who wrote a piece for news website The Huffington Post. It was his first time to visit the Pearl of the Orient.

“I loved the Philippines. I liked the fact that everybody speaks English, but also that it’s a culture that’s different from the rest of its neighbors. It has Spanish culture, it has American culture, but also it has its own Filipino culture,” Parker said.

Gregory Stoneham, the Marketing and Sales Director of tour operator Asian Horizons, says he has experienced the upward trend.

“Certainly since 2013 we’ve seen an increase, a very positive increase. There is greater interest in traveling around the islands, as opposed to just going diving – although the diving is amazing,” Stoneham said.