The people from the land of K-pop and Koreanovelas see the Philippine tourism campaign as parallel to that of their home country, said a top official of the South Korean Embassy.
“Our current tourism brand is ‘Be Inspired,’ which could take any form, like ‘Be Inspired with Korean food,’ ‘Be Inspired with Korean heritage’ or Be Inspired by Korean shopping,’” said Hwang Seong Un, the embassy’s counselor for culture and public relations, comparing their tourism slogan to the country’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
According to Hwang, the top attractions for the visitors from Korea are the country’s beautiful beaches and the people.
“Beaches in Batangas are great,” Hwang, who is also director of the Korean Cultural Center, told the Inquirer. “The people here are very friendly and no matter who we approach, they are always willing to talk and communicate in ways they know and in ways that would be understood. Their ability to speak English is one of the strongest points of Filipinos.”
He cited Cebu and Boracay as among the popular honeymoon destinations for Koreans.
He described the Department of Tourism (DOT) drive as “positive,” stressing that “it highlights the fun-loving nature of Filipinos.”
The embassy official has expressed optimism that the number of Korean tourists to the country will break the one million-mark this year, given the aggressive campaign the DOT has recently launched.
Last year, South Koreans topped the list of foreign tourists to the Philippines, followed by visitors from Japan and the United States, according to the DOT.
In January, Koreans accounted for 102,166, or 24.9 percent of the 411,064 foreign visitors in the country, according to embassy records. During the past five years, some 1.44 million Koreans visited the Philippines.
Hwang said it would be a good idea to further intensify the Philippine government’s tourism campaign in Korea.
Sense of belonging
“Koreans will continue to fly to the Philippines, given that flights between the two countries average 23 per day. Also, the Korean community in the Philippines has settled in quite nicely and the Korean towns around give Korean tourists a sense of belonging despite being in a foreign country,” he said.
However, he said their host government should do something about what he called a “common concern” among Korean tourists—the “harassment many Korean visitors suffer in the hands of immigration officials.”
“The embassy has expressed concern over the Bureau of Immigration (BI) watchlist on certain Korean individuals. Since only the names of blacklisted individuals are indicated in the BI order, Koreans with the same names as the blacklisted ones experience unexpected trouble at Philippine airports. That is why we have asked that the expansion of the information in the same blacklist or watchlist should include not just the names but also the birthdates of the concerned individuals,” he said.