November 20, 2008 (Thursday)
By Gianna G. Maniego
Anybody who thinks bird watching is, well,
for the birds, will probably change his mind after listening
to Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano praise the merits of
this activity and explain why it is a good come-on for visitors
to come to the Philippines.
"We Filipinos don't know how blessed
we are in terms of the number of bird species we have in the
country. We have 600 bird species, 200 of those endemic,"
he says at the launch, last Tuesday, of the country's latest
tourism campaign in London. "The Philippines has the
highest concentration of bird species in the world per square
kilometer and we didn't know this until it was pointed out
by several bird watching groups."
London double-decker bus advertises This opens up a new avenue for the Tourism
Department to lure more visitors to the Philippines, he says.
birdwatching in the Philippines
"We're always looking for products that
would give added value to the Philippines as a destination.
In the past few years, we have been successful in pushing
general leisure—the beaches, scuba diving, etc. But
this, this is something that makes us stand out. We can claim
that we are the highest in terms of bird species, and in terms
of markets, bird watching has a huge market. It's just so
Coincidentally, bird watching is the cornerstone
of the country's participation at this year's World Travel
Market. Durano heads the 70-strong Philippine delegation to
the annual business-to-business travel exhibit held at the
Excel Docklands in London (more on the WTM next week).
"There is no other place in the world
to launch this campaign but here in London," says Eduardo
Jarque, undersecretary for Tourism and Planning. "I lived
here for 12 years, and when I was here I would go to the countryside
on weekends, and I would always meet two groups of people—the
ramblers [what they call those who trek through the woods]
and the bird watchers. This is definitely going to be a significant
market for us."
With more than two million "birders"
in the UK alone, Jarque believes this segment would be the
tipping point for this high-end, high-yield tourist market.
"We always get about 80,000 to 90,000
arrivals from the UK. Hopefully, with this added dimension,
we will get past the 100,000 mark."
WBCP members with DOT Sec Ace Durano
The well-attended launch, at the ritzy Marriott
Hotel on Grosvenor Square, was also highlighted by the launch
of Birdwatching in the Philippines, Volume One, a guidebook
to 13 of the Philippines' best bird watching sites. The book,
and its companion booklet of postcards, features beautifully
photographed rare and interesting species that avid birders
can find in the country. The book is a joint project of the
Tourism Department and the R.O.X. (Recreational Outdoor Exchange).
at the book launch held at the Marriot Grosvenor
Square Hotel in London
"We will be preparing for the bird fair,
which will be held here in London in August next year, at
which time we will also launch Volume Two of the book,"
Earlier, the Philippines, through DoT London
tourism attaché Ramon "Chicoy" Enerio, inked
a deal for the country to sponsor the Wild Wetland Center,
a partnership that the Tourism Department hopes would squarely
put the Philippines on the British birder's map.
"Birdwatching originated here. There
are about 2 million birders in the UK alone," says Enerio,
who spearheaded the London launch, along with his able staff
Chit Afuang, Lito Mendoza, Richard de Villa, Vicky Zayco,
Marjorie Valiente and Michelle Feraren.
Among those who attended the launch were
important British and Philippine personalities like Lord Thomas
MacNally (leader of the Social Democrats in the House of Lords)
and his wife Lady Juliet MacNally, Paul Dimond, (former British
ambassador to the Philippines and head of the London-based
Friends Philippines) and his wife Caroline, Philippine Ambassador
to the Court of Saint James Edgardo Espiritu and his wife
Lydia, DoT Central Visayas Regional Director Dawnie Roa, Alaminos,
Pangasinan Mayor Hernani Braganza, Balanga Mayor Jose Enrique
Garcia III and his wife Isabel, Alcoy, Cebu Mayor Nicomedes
delos Santos, Raul Marcelo of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
and his wife, Melinda, Negros Oriental provincial board member
Mariant Villegas, and Philippine Tourism Authority board members
DJ Bagatsing, Honorio Estepa and Emmanuel Veloso.
Also present were DoT's marketing team for
Europe led by Verna Buensuceso, Philippine Convention and
Visitors Corp.'s Stannie Soriano and Baby de Luna-Dandan,
members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines headed by
Michael Lu, and the people behind the guidebook, Jimmy Thai
(head of R.O.X.), Carlos Libosada Jr., Ivan Josef Sarenas
and Robert Alejandro, as well as the private sector (tour
operators and travel agents) participants including Serafina
Joven (Annset Holidays), Renato Contis (Bayan Ko Tours and
Travel), Alex Stutely and Jeremy Kemp (Blue Horizons), Sonia
Lazo (Intas Destination Management Inc.), Mia Martinez-Mancio
(Hermes Agencia de Viajes), Jojo Clemente (Rajah Tours), Arjun
Shroff (Shroff International Travel Care), Joy Anne Denoga
(El Nido Resorts), Erwin Baquial (Eskaya Beach Resort and
Spa) and Cesar Cruz of T.R.I.P.S., and avid birder himself.
The guests feasted on Spiced Salmon Fish
Cake, Braised Beef with Sweet Garlic Mash and Oxtail Jus,
and Passion Fruit and Chocolate Tian as they enjoyed the world-class
entertainment provided by the Bayanihan Philippine National
Folk Dance Company.
Needless to say, the affair, which lasted
till almost midnight, was a resounding success, and, if early
indications are anything to go by, there is no doubt that
this campaign will soar beyond expectations.