Brighter horizons ahead

A currently-dormant MICE scene is eagerly waiting to romance China corporates with its hospitality, sun, sand, and sea when borders reopen.

Pre-pandemic, China was the Philippines’ fastest-growing and second-largest source market – after South Korea – for both leisure tourists and corporate groups.

This was due to China’s close proximity and easy air access to the Philippines, the lure of her many islands, beaches and natural attractions, and a growing cache of modern event facilities. These, combined with the number of Chinese investments in a broad portfolio of local industries help bring about a large corporate base.

Sumilon Island in Cebu

Since the pandemic however, Raquel Tria, acting head, MICE head, Philippine Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), has indicated that these selling points are no longer sufficient. Established health and safety guidelines as well as hygiene will be the top priority of clients and organisers moving forward.

As such, Tria shared that in order to provide for both Chinese corporate groups and bleisure travellers, the TPB has ensured that “the accreditation of Philippine tourism establishments is now aligned with the global health and safety protocols through the World Travel & Tourism Council Safe Stamp”.

This will give potential travellers and event organisers peace of mind, knowing that Philippine suppliers are able to cater to the needs of the new normal and ensure safety and hygiene.

These high standards are held across the tourism industry, be it private islands in Palawan, Boracay, Bohol and Cebu, or in the capital of Manila.

In Manila, the safety and hygiene ante has been upped at its four integrated resorts, each a spacious hub for corporate events, incentive groups, and bleisure guests. Within these integrated resorts are luxury hotels, sophisticated event facilities, exclusive restaurants, alongside an array of fun and entertainment.

Twin Lagoon in Coron

Jennylyn Santillan, director of sales and marketing at the City of Dreams Manila – one of the exhibitors at IT&CM China – said that other plus points for the integrated resorts are their easy access from the city’s international and domestic airports, and close proximity to the country’s biggest event venues, the SMX Convention Center and 20,000-capacity Mall of Asia Arena.

Although borders have been slow to reopen due to the difference in vaccination programmes around the world, TPB’s recently-launched MICE Assist Program has made it easier for outbound Chinese groups to plan their trips. The programme offers assistance and incentives to China-based business events organisers that are looking to send their clients to the Philippines, shared Ireneo Reyes, Philippine Tourism Attache based in Shanghai.

Assistance, he elaborated, starts from pre-event (application for group visas, locating and contacting certified DMCs and PCOs, site inspection trips and technical visits, etc.), lasts throughout the event (airport assistance, giveaways and hosted events, etc.), and until post-event (assisted tours, feedback from guests to improve services).

Hospitality consultant Jerome de la Fuente, who has spent many years working in China, opined the Philippines should make efforts to snare China corporate groups as they are vastly untapped with an enormous potential, especially for luxury travel.

“(Philippine) MICE players must learn about the Chinese market and its idiosyncrasies. It’s not enough that they can speak Mandarin. They should know the MICE organisers and the corporations. Connections are important as most of the deals are done outside the office,” de la Fuente advised.

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