By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA— France has recognized the “huge potential” of the country’s tourism sector as it convened its first tourism joint working group meeting with the Philippines in Manila last month.
“France is well aware of the huge potential of the Philippines’ tourism sector. Certainly, the development of tourism in this country would help increase tourist flows between our two countries,” French Ambassador Nicholas Galey said, in a document released to the media on Saturday.
Among others, the industry could be a source of major opportunities for bilateral cooperation between the French and Philippine private sectors, he pointed out.
To explore this, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs on April 11 agreed to establish cooperation in destination promotion efforts and investment.
In his speech, Galey said the country “can certainly attract many more tourists” with its well-known destinations among Southeast Asian neighbors.
But while a country teems with world-class destinations, he noted a government must consider the improvement of its accessibility to tourists.
“Tourists and visitors are particularly sensitive to the transportation factor. They don’t like spending too much time travelling and connecting. And this brings the crucial question of flights between France and this country — a subject I have been working on during the last months, and I hope there may be some positive news in this regard in the near future,” he said.
During the 1st Philippines-France Joint Working Group Meeting at the DOT Office in Makati, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. and French head of Tourism Promotion Department Clément Laloux signed a “summary record” of their discussion which includes improving air route connectivity and direct flight, and the two-way tourism traffic between the two states.
A total of 74,389 French tourists visited the Philippines last year with 22,219 arrivals already for the first two months of 2019.
This recorded a double-digit growth of 22.25 percent against the same period in 2018.
Conversely, over 110,000 Filipinos visited France in 2018, about 44 percent of whom travelled for religious purposes.
According to the DOT, France is the country’s 13th source market and is the top three for Europe following the United Kingdom and Germany.
As of February this year, French tourists are also the ninth top-spending tourist with PHP896,158,004 or USD17,171,049 expenditures.
The DOT targets 114,264 French tourist arrivals by 2020. (PNA)