What’s in store for Indians in The Philippines

There has been a 23 per cent increase in the number of Indian tourists to the Philippines: From 22,703 in 2006 to 42,844 in 2011. “When it comes to outbound travel, Chennai, at 16 per cent, ranks fifth in the country. At 26 per cent, Mumbai ranks first,” says Glen Agustin, Head, Team India Chief Tourism Operations Officer of the Philippines tourism department.

No wonder the island country is going the length to promote tourism with a new slogan ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’. At a recent roadshow held at the city’s Hyatt Regency, every visitor was coaxed into wearing traditional Filipino feather wigs while two giant screens repeated a flurry of funny images and videos that reflect different aspects of this archipelago of 7107 islands.

Let us give it to them, the display was indeed funny. A snappy video titled ‘Rush Hour. More Fun in the Philippines’ showed a shoal of fish. Another titled ‘Traffic’ showed a photograph of a traffic cop directing vehicles through what is veritable chaos, dressed as Santa! ‘Biking’ showed half-clad men in tribal headgear riding two wooden scooters down a slope, propelled by gravity. Later, three girls danced to tunes from Bollywood.

Bringing the annual road-show to Chennai and Bangalore is one of a series of efforts to woo more Indian tourists. “With its IT industries, the two cities offer a lot of promise,” says Verna Covar-Buensuceso, director, Group Head for Europe, India and the Middle-East, Department of Tourism. Verna attributes the impressive growth to the similarities between India and the Philippines, pointing out that English is a common language, that both nations love festivals, and that currency values are almost the same. “Like Indians, Filipinos are extremely family-oriented. In fact, we offer homestay programmes for Indian tourists,” says Verna. Besides this, there is a significant Indian population in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. A visit to the Philippines can be combined with trips to these places.

The Philippines is planning visa-free entry for Indian nationals AJACSSUK (in other words, a valid American, Japanese, Canadian, Schengen, Singapore or United Kingdom visa or permanent resident permit).