THE Department of Tourism (DOT) last Sunday officially launched the “Bring Home A Friend” (BHAF) program in Seoul, South Korea.
About 250 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) gathered at the Lotte Hotel for the event, and were encouraged by Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo to actively take part in all tourism promotions, and specifically become
BHAF “sponsors” to create greater interest in and encourage more foreigners to travel to the Philippines.
“Umuwi na kayo [come home] and please bring your Korean friends with you,” she said. The DOT is targeting to attract at least 500,000 more foreign visitors with the launch of the revived BHAF campaign, a program that was launched in 1994 by former Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor.
Under the program, any Filipino, residing in the Philippines or overseas, stands to win an array of prizes under the program that will run for six months, from October 15, 2017, up to April 15, 2018. Among the prizes are a condominium unit from Megaworld Corp., a brand-new Toyota Vios, and a P200,000 gift certificate from Duty Free Philippines Corp. Their “friends,” or foreign guests, can win round-trip international flight tickets and tour packages to Palawan, Cebu and Davao. To join the program, the sponsor should register at the BHAF home page, accessible via DOT’s web sitehttp://tourism.gov.ph
Teo also thanked South Korea for continuing to be the Philippines’s top source market for tourists.
“This campaign is our way of saying to the growing South Korean tourist market—now counting to over 1.3 million—that our country will always be their second home,” the DOT chief said.
Also present during the event were Undersecretary for Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects Katherine de Castro, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Raul Hernandez, Tourism Attaché Maria Corazon Jorda-Apo, travel and tour executives, representatives from the South Korean government and South Korean journalists.
Most South Koreans visit the beach destinations of the Philippines, such as Cebu and Boracay, and also come here to learn English as a second language.
“Needless to say, we have all the reasons to be proud hosts. In fact, world leading travel magazines have consistently named our islands—Boracay, Palawan and Cebu—among the world’s most beautiful islands,” said De Castro, for her part.
Journalist Seong Heiu-pyeon said he already asked his Filipino friends to register him as a BHAF invitee. “A lot of Koreans are traveling to the Philippines and other than the country’s beautiful beaches, I see this as an opportunity to establish a relationship between Korea and the Philippines. See you Philippines, I will definitely book my flight now,” the DOT quoted him as saying.
Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs show 9.1 million overseas Filipinos, of which, more than 3 million reside in the United States, while more than 2 million are based in the Middle East. Other countries with large numbers of Filipinos are Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Italy and Australia.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimated the number of Filipinos in South Korea at 70,000 in 2007, of which 6,000 held permanent residency, while some 15,000 were undocumented. Documented OFWs in South Korea are around 35,000, most of whom work in factories, according to more recent government estimates.
South Korea continues to be the top source of visitors in the Philippines, however, its numbers of late indicate some sluggishness. From January to October of 2017, some 1.33 million South Koreans visited the Philippines, up 10.63 percent from the same period in 2016. The market accounted for 24.33 percent of total arrivals for the 10-month period in 2017.
The DOT earlier said, the launch of the BHAF program was timed for the Christmas season, which in the Philippines usually lasts from October until January.
“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,” Teo earlier said.