TravelManagers Lead Representation on Philippines Famil and Travel Exchange
The islands of the Philippines sit roughly three thousand kilometres almost due north of Darwin, and their popularity as a tourism destination has grown steadily over the past ten years, with more than 250,000 Australians estimated to have visited in 2017. With this in mind, thirteen personal travel managers (PTMs) were invited to be part of a group of thirty travel professionals on an eight-day famil of the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, hosted by the Philippine Department of Tourism and Philippine Airlines.
After arriving in Cebu, the group spent their first morning participating in a “travel exchange”: a series of B2B sessions with suppliers that were either targeting or already active in the Australian market.
Wendy Krukowitch, who is representative for Watsonia, VIC, says she appreciated the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the country’s different regions, and the various types of accommodation and touring available to her clients.
“Apart from seeing some of the areas first hand, the B2B sessions introduced us land operators around the Philippines. As this was my first trip to the Philippines, it was great to be able to put it all into perspective.”
From here, the group spent an afternoon carrying out various site inspections, including popular resorts on the neighbouring island of Mactan, and wrapped up the day with a Filipino-style buffet dinner. It was then time to divide into two groups: the first of which headed to the south-eastern end of Cebu.
According to Michelle Lehn, who was one of the PTMs in this group, one of the highlights of their itinerary was the chance to get in the water and interact with whale sharks in Oslob.
“We spent the remainder of the day on the stunning island of Sumilon, just off the coast from Oslob, where we filled in the afternoon snorkelling in and kayaking on the amazing, clear water.”
Meanwhile, the other group spent two days exploring several of the islands further east from Cebu, including Bohol, where they enjoyed a lunch cruise on the tranquil Loboc River, and Panglao, which is famed for its beautiful beaches and incredibly diverse marine life.
“Bohol is where we got to really see what the Philippines has to offer,” explains Krukowitch. “Great scenery, interesting tours and the whitest beaches!”
As well as the undeniable scenic highlights of their time in the Philippines, many of the famil participants also identified a further reason that they intend to return in the future, including Julie Painter who is representative for Mount Colah, NSW.
“The Filipino people are the most incredible, giving and heart-warming culture I’ve experienced in Asia – you can’t help but return the smiles, everywhere you go,” she explains.
“We also tried many types of food and it was amazing,” adds Krukowitch. “I will definitely recommend that my clients eat in local restaurants and try something different every time – there is so much to choose from!”
Both groups reconnected back in Manila, where they were hosted for a second series of B2B supplier workshops. According to Michelle Lehn, representative for Engadine, NSW, these workshops gave attendees the opportunity to broaden their destination and product knowledge beyond those they had been able to visit during what amounted to an action-packed itinerary.
“I really appreciated the chance to hear from suppliers from so many other islands that we didn’t get to visit,” she says. “I would particularly love to see the limestone caves of Palawan and the amazing beaches of Boracay and Palawan after hearing about them throughout the roadshow.”
TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says the company was not surprised with the feedback received from PTMs explaining that first-hand knowledge is invaluable in destinations that are still relatively unknown to the Australian market.
“Practical advice such as whether a private car transfer is a better option than a seat-in-coach transfer or what the etiquette is for bartering in the markets are examples of the finer details that make all the difference to a client’s holiday experience and can only come from seeing the destination for yourself.”
It’s a statement of fact that is emphasised by the PTMs themselves, including Karina Petrovics, who is TravelManagers’ representative for Mittagong, NSW.
“My perceptions of the destination have definitely changed. The Philippines has a lot to offer from tranquil beaches, to lush chocolate hills and an ever-growing capital city,” she says. “It was not what I had expected, and I now have a much better understanding of the destination.”
Krukowitch is one of the many participants who has confirmed that she will be returning to the unique destination in the future.
“As great as our itinerary was, we only saw a tiny portion of the Philippines, so it would be great to go back and experience it as a tourist: to visit the local markets and wander along looking for a nice restaurant or café.”