“MARKET Cebu more to Australia.”
This was the suggestion of Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely to Cebu’s tourism sector as it plans to lure more Australian tourists to visit the province.
Gorely, who is a first time visitor to Cebu, was amazed by the warm hospitality of Cebuanos, natural attractions and thriving economic landscape.
She was in Cebu Monday to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties between Australia and the Philippines this year. The Australian Embassy mounted an exhibit at the SM City Cebu Northwing, which highlights the 70-year friendship between two countries.
The lady ambassador said that if Cebu intends to grow its arrivals from Australia, she highly recommends investing more in advertising and other marketing campaigns, as Cebu is not as popular compared to other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore, which Australian tourists frequently visit.
“You already have the making of a perfect holiday, but you need to market Cebu more. You need to do more advertising in terms of building knowledge and familiarity of the brand. You already have a fantastic package to sell,” said Gorely, referring to the province’s pristine beaches, adventure tourism, shopping, and natural wonders.
The country’s tropical weather and Filipino cuisine are big attractions among Australian tourists. However, the absence of direct flights between Cebu and key cities of Australia such as Melbourne and Sydney remains a challenge to boost arrivals from these cities.
Cebu logged 44,311 arrivals from Australia last year. The region, on the other hand, registered 5.94 percent growth, from 53,197 in 2014 to 56,356 last year.
According to Gorely, Australians normally spend at least two weeks when on holiday. She noted that there is also a growing number of Australian backpackers who travel abroad but opt for cheaper holiday destinations.
However, efforts to lure Australian tourists to come to Cebu are already in place.
GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), the private operator of Mactan Cebu International Airport, for instance, has identified Australia as among the route destinations they are actively pursuing along with Thailand, India, Japan, Malaysia and China.
Likewise, the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 has already coordinated with the local tour guides who have links with Australia’s tourism sector in coming up with an itinerary fitting for the Australian tourist.
DOT 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said that local tour guides have already inspected tourism sites in the southern part of Cebu and Bohol late last year.
“Australians are more into eco-tourism. We are exploring new sites now so we have something new to offer to them. We are eyeing new tours outside of what we have been offering to this market in the past years,” said Montecillo.
The Philippines and Australia signed an air agreement last year that further increases seat entitlements by 55 percent.
In April last year, the Philippines and Australia agreed to increase the airline seat entitlements in flights between the two countries from 6,000 to 9,300 seats per week, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board.
Philippine Airlines currently flies to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Darwin while budget carrier Cebu Air Inc. operates flights to Sydney.
Meanwhile, business and knowledge process outsourcing remain (B/KPO) one of the key interests of Australian companies when investing in the Philippines.
“High interest is observed in the BPO and KPO space,” said Gorely.
She underscored that the Philippines’ impressive economic growth plus the abundance of young, talented and English-speaking demographics have been the country’s edge in terms of attracting foreign firms to relocate or outsource some of its businesses.
Australian-telecommunications firm, Telstra for instance, already has a presence in Cebu, with over 2,000 employees providing customer service.
Austal, another Australian company that makes vessels, also employs over 200 workers in its shipyard in Balamban.
“The interest of Australian firms to open businesses in the Philippines remains high,” said Gorely adding that Australia is well represented in various industries in the country, including architecture, engineering, business process outsourcing operations, telecommunications, banking, technical and vocational training and mining.
She also noted that improved economic conditions of the country as reflected by the high-spending power of Filipinos and the presence of Australian companies also paved the way for growth of Australian-inspired restaurants and products like beef and beverages.
“The growth of Australian influence has also resulted in Filipino consumers’ taste buds to become more premium as well,” she said.
Job opportunities for Filipinos in Australia also remain high, especially in the healthcare sector.
“Nurses are still in demand for Australia, which already has an aging population,” she said. Gorely said Australian health institutions have high preference for Filipino medical professionals because of their “gentle and caring professional attitude.”
“They are loved by Australians because they have a strong sense of family ties and they are compassionate,” she said.
High work demand is also noted in the field of engineering, hospital and restaurant sector, tourism, construction specifically welding and other skilled jobs.
Australia has a population of more than 23 million. It is the sixth largest country in the world. More than 250,000 Filipinos have made Australia their home.
Total trade between the Philippines and Australia was valued at AUD$4.1 billion in 2014, 65 percent higher than in 2010, when the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement took effect.
Two-way merchandise trade expanded 66 percent between 2010 and 2014, to AUD$2.9 billion.
Major Australian exports to the Philippines include metal ores and concentrates, copper ores and concentrates, wheat and beef. Philippine exports to Australia include heating and cooling equipment and parts, mechanical handling equipment, pumps and parts, and electrical machinery.
Services trade between Australia and the Philippines was worth AUD$1.3 billion in 2014, 64 percent higher than in 2010. Australia’s top service exports to the Philippines in 2014 were education-related and personal travel while the Philippines’ top service exports to Australia were professional and personal travel.
There are more than 200 Australian firms operating in the Philippines employing an estimated 30,000 Filipinos.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 16, 2016.
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