THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has revived the “Bring Home A Friend” (BHAF) program to boost foreign arrivals this upcoming Christmas season.
“We would like to close the year strongly for the tourism industry in terms of visitor arrivals and carry the momentum into the coming year,” said DOT Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, in a statement.
Implemented in 1994 during the stint of former tourism secretary Mina Gabor, the BHAF program aims to encourage Filipinos to invite their foreign friends to come and visit the Philippines.
Under the new BHAF program, Filipino sponsors, who either reside in the country or overseas, have the opportunity to win an array of prizes from Oct. 15 to April 15, 2018.
Major prizes include a condominium from Megaworld Corp., a brand new Toyota Vios, and a P200,000 gift certificate at Duty-Free Philippines while their foreign guests can win round-trip international flight tickets and tour packages to Palawan, Cebu, and Davao.
To join, the Filipino sponsor must register via the BHAF webpage accessible via DOT’s website tourism.gov.ph. They may also register at that BHAF booths soon to be set up at selected international airports in the country.
According to the DOT, the number of eligible entries will also depend on the points they earn corresponding to the guest’s country of origin—two points from Asia and Oceania/Australia and three points for guests from Africa, Middle East, Europe, and America.
“The more foreign friends the sponsors invite, the more entries they can submit,” the DOT said.
There are about 9.1 million Filipinos living or working abroad, based on the 2015 report of the Department of Foreign Affairs. More than three million reside in the United States while more than two million are based in the Middle East.
Other countries with large concentration of Filipinos are in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Italy, and Australia.
Overseas Filipinos are recognized by the DOT as the country’s tourism ambassadors.
In fact, the DOT is working closely with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for the reintegration of returning overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) to become tour guides, especially for non-English speaking tourists visiting the country.
Tourism Undersecretary for regulation, coordination and resource generation Alma Jimenez, during her visit to Cebu, said that abroad, OFWs are the country’s tourism ambassadors as they in one way or another showcase the rich Filipino culture and hospitality. Once they come home, they can be tourism assets in helping the country in taking care of foreign visitors.
The DOT official admitted it would be easier for the agency to tap and train returning OFWs, as they already know the foreign language and the culture rather than train existing tour guides in various languages, such as Chinese and Japanese.
She said this opportunity could also help returning OFWs land jobs in the country once they decide not to return abroad for work. (KOC)
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 27, 2017.
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