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MANILA - Retailers and the government will organize a 'shopping festival' similar to those marketed by other Asian countries to attract more foreign visitors to the Philippines, the Department of Tourism said.
DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. said packaging shopping into a tourist attraction and organizing retailers for this event "is very important" because this activity is a part of the Filipino experience.
"In fact we are one of the best shopping destinations in Asia today. So we need to prepare well for that," Jimenez told reporters at Thursday's start of the National Retail Conference.
"By next year we will see festivals of that nature. Sanay naman tayo sa mga 'midnight madness' pero hindi lang nagagawang regionally i-advertise. We will do that," he added.
This initiative will be heavy on private sector involvement as retailers can provide the shopping experience and the government can provide only "encouragement" and promotions, the DOT chief said.
About 60 percent of tourism receipts come from shopping but the Philippines captures only 20 percent of that so the shopping festival can double this, Sammie Lim, Philippine Retailers Association chairman emeritus, said.
"One of the main reasons for choosing the place to go to now is to shop. Before, the biggest expense go to airlines, hotels. It is reversed now, about 40 percent to 60 percent of that goes to shopping. But that does not happen overnight," Lim, who is also the president of Automatic Centre and Blims Furniture, said.
Shopping used to be a subsidiary activity to travel. Citing figures from a world retail conference, Lim said shopping comprises 40 percent of tourist expenditure, accomodation at 30 percent, meals at 17 percent, transportation at 6 percent and other expenses like entertainment 7 percent.
In Hong Kong, shopping takes a bigger share of tourists' wallets at 60 percent, with only 20 percent for accomodation. For the territory's 'same day' visitors, shopping takes 90 percent of their expenditures.
"The reason for this is that Hong Kong has a master plan to promote shopping as a main travel attraction," Lim said. As early as 1971, the Hong Kong Tourism Board came up with the campaign "Hong Kong--More than You'll Bargain For."
Aside from this, Hong Kong is a favorite among shopping tourists because it is a tax- and duty-free destination. On top of these, factory overruns are also readily available.
Tourism raked in US$27 billion for the Hong Kong government in 2010, six times bigger than for the Philippines. The retail component alone contributed US$16 billion, four times larger than the Philippines' total tourism industry.
To get the shopping festival off the ground, Lim said the government, retailers and airlines must agree on the month for this event since carriers and the hospitality industry would have to determine when they can offer special rates.
Lim said retailers and carriers would not want to have the shopping festival during the Christmas season and certain months that would coincide with the school opening months.
The PRA is also looking at holding two shopping festivals, one for the Asian market and another for the Western market.
"It can be one for the Asians and one can be for those running away from the winter---the American and European market," Lim said.
There must also be concept stores that offer local products serving as a one-stop shops for tourists.
"The One Town, One Product store of the Department of Trade and Industyr, and the agri-kart of the Department of Agriculture are steps in the right direction. So is SM's Kultura stores," said Lim.
Bargain and specialized shopping must also be organized, like Thailand's night market, Tokyo's Akihabara and Hong Kong's Mongkok district. Lim said it is difficult to market Tutuban to foreign travelers because of the "impossible" traffic but this could soon be feasible with the government's plan of extending and improving Metro Manila's light railway system.
This initiative, Lim said, must be led by the private sector with the government as a supporting agent because "otherwise it will die."
"If a tourism secretary promotes it and a new secretary comes in, he might have a different plan," he added.
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