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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Boy band member is new ‘Tourism Ambassador’ for Philippines in Japan

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THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has chosen Filipino-Japanese celebrity Alan Shirahama as the brand new “Tourism Ambassador” for the Philippines.

A member of the popular boy band Exile, which has sold more than 24 million records in Japan alone, Shiharama has also starred in movies such as Daytime Shooting Star, Prince of Legend and One in a Hundred Thousand, according to the DOT in a news statement.

Shirahama received a certificate indicating his new job of encouraging more Japanese travelers to visit the Philippines from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, who are in Japan with other state officials for a series of meetings with Japanese government officials, tourism stakeholders, as well as business executives and investors. 

BBM appeals for lifting of travel advisories

This developed as the President on Thursday lobbied for the “lifting or limiting” of Tokyo’s travel advisories against select Philippine destinations, in a bid to revive the pandemic-hit tourism industry. He made this statement during a roundtable meeting with Japanese tourism stakeholders.

“The Philippines and Japan has so much in the pipeline on what we can share and learn with each other. But first and foremost, we note that in order for us to further deepen our nation’s mutual friendship and interest, we must first be open to each other’s people. With this, we are working on lobbying to the Japanese government for the lifting or limiting of its travel advisory against the Philippines’ key travel destinations,’” said Marcos.

According to a travel advisory dated November 1, 2019, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) warned its nationals to “avoid all travel regardless of purposes” (Level 3) to Zamboanga del Sur and del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Basilan Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, with an alert to the possibility of being evacuated. Earlier that year, two bombs were set off  at a Catholic Church in Jolo, which were attributed to the Abu Sayyaf, and later in the year, the area was rocked by a series of earthquakes.

It also warned its citizens to “avoid non-essential travel” (Level 2) to Southern Palawan and all other areas of Mindanao except those listed above, while the rest of the Philippines is under a Level 1 travel alerts, warning Japanese citizens to  “exercise caution.” This was followed by another alert in 2021, warning  Japanese citizens anew of possible terrorist attacks including suicide bombings in the Philippines and five other countries.  

16K Japanese live in the PHL

The President stressed that the Philippines “is open and ready to welcome more Japanese into our shores.” Prior to the pandemic, arrivals from Japan reached  682,788, placing the market as the fourth  largest in 2019. In 2022, the Philippines received 99,557 tourists from Japan.

During the meeting, Frasco elaborated on her agency’s efforts to increase the market share of Japanese tourists, which include the development of the retirement and long stay programs. According to MOFA, there were close to 16,000 Japanese nationals residing in the Philippines as of December 2021.

“The Philippines is also a popular retirement destination for the Japanese. And as a first step leading towards that retirement decision, long-stay programs to the Philippines are continuously being pushed,” the tourism chief said.  According to the Long Stay Foundation, the Philippines is the fourth biggest destination for long staying foreign nationals. The Philippine Retirement Authority, an attached agency of the DOT, also reported Japan as the sixth biggest retirement market for the Philippines.

The President also identified education tourism as an area where ties between the Philippines and Japan be further strengthened. “Filipinos have a fluency in English that is recognized to be one of our main leverages, one of our main selling points in terms of the education tourism. It makes it easy for us to work and communicate in other countries. And where else can you better learn English than in the Philippines?”

At the roundtable with Japanese tourism stakeholders were representatives of the Asean-Japan Centre, Association for English Studies in the Philippines, Japan Association of Overseas Studies, Japan Association of Travel Agents, Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan Philippines Tourism Council, and Marine Creative (Marine Driving Fair Organizer), and MICE Japan Magazine. Also in attendance were representatives from Air Asia, ANA Air, Cebu Pacific, Japan Airlines, Jetstar-Japan, and Philippine Airlines.

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