The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
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DOT takes flight in London

Manila Standard
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
birdwatching in the Philippines
This opens up a new avenue for the Tourism Department to lure more visitors to the Philippines, he says.

"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 perfect."

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
at the book launch held at the Marriot Grosvenor
Square Hotel in London
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).

"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," says Durano.

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.