Authorities in the Philippines launched a new incentive program on Thursday, aimed at overseas Filipino workers to encourage them to bring foreign visitors to the country.
The “Bisita (Visitor) Be My Guest” program, introduced by the Department of Tourism in cooperation with the Department of Migrant Workers, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the private sector, aims to boost the Southeast Asian nation’s hospitality sectors as it recovers from two years of coronavirus
“We’re very happy to launch the ‘Bisita Be My Guest’ program,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco told reporters in Manila.
“This will give Filipinos, especially our OFWs and those living abroad, opportunities to receive incentives and prizes for bringing home a foreign friend, spouse or family into the Philippines.
“Now as travel restrictions have eased, we look forward to inviting our foreign friends and guests to visit our country and to offer a wide range of culturally rich experiences along with all types of outdoor recreational activities on water and on land,” Frasco said.
The incentives include raffle prizes such as condominium units, cars, and holiday packages, as well as privilege cards for discounts at various malls, hotels and restaurants across the country.
As most of Filipino migrant workers live in the Middle East, the project is expected to help increase arrivals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other countries in the region, Frasco said.
“I had a listening tour with stakeholders in that region, and they’re very excited to partner with the Philippines to harness the Middle Eastern market for us.”
Saudi Arabia, home to over 800,000 Filipino expats, is the Philippines’ main tourism market in the Middle East.
“All of them are so eager to help our country,” Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said during the program’s launch.
“This program gives them a vehicle to do just that.”
The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches and famous diving spots, is dependent on tourism. In 2019, nearly 8.3 million foreign tourists visited the country and the hospitality sector generated around $44 billion — about 13 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Most tourism destinations in the country were forced to shut down when the COVID
-19 pandemic hit in 2020, dealing a major blow to the industry. Foreign arrivals slumped by 82 percent.
This year, tourism recovery efforts have yielded results following the lifting of several coronavirus
By Dec. 15, official data showed that nearly 2.4 million foreign tourists had visited the Philippines.