DOT revives program to lure Fil-Am expats
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has revived its “Invite Home a Friend” program targeting Filipino balikbayans or expatriates in North America, particularly young professionals, millennials and social media influencers.
In a statement from Los Angeles, California, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said the incentive travel program was first launched by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor in 1994 for the US travel market, the Philippines’ second top source for foreign arrivals.
Teo, who is currently in the United States on a business mission, explained that the DOT planned to run “Invite Home a Friend” every quarter of the year via a raffle draw.
Among the program’s initial target markets are the next-generation Filipino-Americans and Philippine-born residents of the United States, who are mostly into leisure travels and who consider the Philippines their native country or second home.
The program, as conceived by Gabor, highlighted the Filipinos’ world-renowned hospitality, which the tourists get to experience. Aside from getting free flights and hotel night stays, the tourists will also get to enjoy with their friends touring beautiful destinations such as Siquijor, Masbate, Negros Province, Palawan, Cebu, Baguio, Davao and Ilocos.
While the mechanics for the incentive program are still in the pipeline, Teo said she has already instructed the DOT Los Angeles to spread the word among Filipino-American communities.
“We are hoping to award two lucky winners — a balikbayan and a friend nominee — beginning September this year. Travel reward may be used anytime between January and April 2018,” Teo said.
For his part, DOT-Los Angeles attaché Richmond Jimenez agreed with Teo that the program was a great way to thank Filipinos from the United States who continue to not only come to the Philippines by themselves but also often bring along a friend or relative to visit and experience the country.
“Our people are our strength. With our beautiful destinations as backdrop, it is the company of great people that makes every visit to the Philippines more memorable and worth coming back for,” Jimenez said.
Citing a survey it conducted in 2016, the DOT said it found out that 56.60 percent of travelers visiting the Philippines from the United States were likely to return for a repeat visit. These visitors also stay long in the country at an average of 11.22 nights.
Of the US travelers going to the Philippines, 54.40 percent came upon a friend’s recommendation, while 14.20 percent have friends or relatives in the country./rga