Philippines golfers' paradise and Longest White Beach spending shines

Golfers in Clark

The Philippines, a popular destination for Korean golfers, is taking part in the country's largest golf trade show here to promote its golf courses and other leisure facilities as part of efforts to attract 1 million Korean visitors this year.

The Korean office of the Philippines Department of Tourism said it has set up 10 exhibition booths at the Korea Golf Fair 2012, the country's largest golf convention. The fair, which began Thursday and will last through Sunday, is being held at KINTEX in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

The Philippines tourism office said it has and will award visitors to its booths with free airline tickets and other rewards through a prize draw.

``To attract more than 1 million tourists from Korea, we will take full advantage of the ongoing golf exhibition,'' said Maricon Basco-Ebron, director of the Philippines Department of Tourism Office in Korea. ``There are many world-class but affordable golf courses throughout the Philippines. We will make more efforts to promote those in Manila and Clark, which have been extremely popular with Korean golfers.''

She also said during the four-day trade fair, the Southeast Asian country will showcase a number of attractive tourism assets in Palawan, which was designated as one of the New7 Wonders of Nature.

``At our exhibition booths, we will hand out brochures and other tourism-related materials to visitors free of charge. They can also win prizes if they participate in a range of our promotional events,'' the director said.

For instance, those who play on a mini-golf course set up inside the exhibition hall and score above average will be given dried mango and other souvenirs from the Southeast Asian nation. Among visitors that enter for an event, one individual will be selected through a draw and awarded with two complimentary round-trip tickets for the Incheon-Manila route. Another will be given two free round-trip tickets between Incheon and Cebu.

On the last day of the trade show, the winners will be announced. They will be individually notified by the Philippines tourism office.

``There are so many beautiful and distinguished golf courses in Manila and Clark. Restaurants and other amenities at golf courses are ready to serve Korean golfers,'' The director said. ``We strongly encourage golfers to visit the ongoing golf fair and obtain valuable travel information on the Philippines, as well as win various prizes by taking part in our promotional events.''

The country's bid to attract more tourists through the "It's more fun in the Philippines" slogan has started to bear fruit by perking up foreign onshore spending, global payments firm Visa said.

A boost in tourism in the next five years is expected by government officials in San Vicente, Palawan, where the longest white sand beach in the country is

Longest White beach in the Philippines…

The town of San Vicente is a three-hour trip from Puerto Princesa.

Its stretch of white sand beach is about 14-kilometers long, three times longer than the shores of Boracay island.

There are still no resorts built in the area but local officials expect establishments to be set up as soon as the construction of the town's airport is completed.  

Officials said over 50 investors have already bought properties along the white beach.  

San Vicente Mayor Ma. Carmela Alvarez believes that the town will soon be a prime tourist location.

For now, most tourists stay in the San Vicente town proper or in the coastal town of Port Barton.

Businesses, which will be set up along the white beach, are also expected to provide thousands of jobs for residents of San Vicente

VISA spenders up for "It's more fun in the Philippines"

In a press briefing, Visa country manager for the Philippines and Guam Iain Jamieson said this recent surge in inbound spending was complementing the robust growth of business from cardholders in the Philippines, where Visa cards have reached seven million. Of those cards, 4.5 million are debit and prepaid cards and 2.5 million are credit cards. Total payment volume in this market hit around $4 billion in 2011, he said.

Jamieson said the number of Visa cardholders had increased by 17 percent in this market in 2011 alongside a 12 percent rise in payment volume and 16-percent growth in e-commerce transactions. He also noted a 27 percent rise in spending on international transactions as more Philippine residents travel overseas for shopping, sightseeing or business or make online purchases from overseas merchants.

The Visa chief also noted that inbound spending by foreign cardholders have surged by double-digit levels since November last year and has so far been sustained.

"When we look at inbound market, half of amount spent is coming on cards. When we see double-digit growth from inbound customers, then that has positive ramification for the country," Jamieson said.

He reported that there was a sudden flip to double-digit level growth in inbound spending by foreigners since November of last year hitting 12-13 percent or about double the 6-7 percent growth in 2010.

"The new national tourism campaign has some parts to play in this," Jamieson said, adding that people now had more reasons to see great places in the Philippines.

The new tourism slogan was unveiled before Christmas last year. "It just rings. It has a nice ring to it," Jamieson said.

The Visa country chief said he initially thought this spike in foreign spending would tail off by February as westerners come back from their tropical holidays but this hadn't happened.

As of February, Visa's top 10 largest foreign spenders are from the following countries:

  1. United States;
  2. Korea;
  3. Australia;
  4. United Kingdom;
  5. Japan;
  6. Canada;
  7. Norway;
  8. Singapore;
  9. Sweden;
  10. Germany.

Based on recent trends, he added that Australians have been increasingly looking at the Philippines, which Jamieson attributed to direct flights from Qantas.

For Visa, he said it's crucial to look at these trends. "We have beautiful places and destinations to visit and we just want to ensure that we get to the right people in the right countries," he said. Visa, likewise, has launched a campaign to encourage foreign visitors to get local currency from the automated teller machines using their Visa cards as they hit the ground.

Meanwhile, Jamieson noted that 16 percent of payment volume from Philippine cardholders has been coming from e-commerce, mostly from the booking of airline tickets such as with Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. This ratio has doubled over the last five years.

This year, Visa expects payment volume continuing to grow by mid-teens in percentage while issued cards are seen expanding by over 17 percent.

Average transaction value per usage of Visa cards is currently at around $75 while the amount is even half or less for debit and prepaid cards. Jamieson said the average value would likely further decline as consumers would be more comfortable using cards for the littlest transactions and as people who otherwise cannot get credit cards are able to access debit and prepaid cards.

Sources: ABS-CBN News, Korea Times, & Philippine Daily Inquirer

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