INDIAN travel consultants are clamouring for more direct flights to the Philippines and lighter visa restrictions as MICE traffic between the two nations soars.
“Take out the direct flight problem and the Philippines will become ideal for MICE,” said Sandiip Srivastava, director and head, travel solutions, Youdian Business Solutions.
“You have everything – sand, sea, hills, natural beauty, Indian food, culture similar to India, heritage, shopping, and reasonably priced hotels.”
Srivastava was speaking to TTGmice e-Weekly during the Philippine-India Travel Exchange earlier this week, where 19 Indian buyers met with 40 Philippine sellers.
Likewise, Nilam Mhaska, senior executive of operations, Fountain Head Entertainment, who sent a 500-pax incentive group to Manila two months ago, said direct flights were necessary.
She noted that compared with Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) Delhi-Manila via Bangkok flights that were axed in June 2013, flying from India to Manila via a third destination now takes longer.
Second on travel consultants’ wishlists is the easing of visa requirements for Indian nationals. “It’s easy to secure visas for Singapore and Thailand. But it’s very tough to get a visa in the Philippines, you need to produce 10 documents,” said Ashwani Gupta, managing partner, Dove Travels.
He said addressing the visa and access problems will make the Philippines more attractive to MICE planners tired of the usual suspects Thailand and Bali.
Glen Agustin, DoT chief tourism operations officer, said efforts are being made to address these issues.
Despite PAL’s terminated service and the slow outbound during the months leading to India’s presidential election, India arrivals rose 8.9 per cent to 34,853 in January-July this year.
Agustin added that where MICE groups did not reach 150-pax in size before, groups are getting bigger this year and the Philippines has received a series of incentives.