[Exclusive] Overseas Pinoys emerging as tourists in motherland

 

Over a 12-year period, numbers of vacationing compatriots from abroad–as well as their expenditures here–reveal that they remain an untapped sector for the country’s tourism development.

MANILA–As billion-dollar remittances from a 10.4 million-strong Filipino population abroad continue to grow, tourism expenditures from vacationing overseas Filipinos are an emerging tool for development.

The number of vacationing overseas Filipinos, as per annual data from the Department of Tourism (DOT), pales in comparison to the number of foreign tourists and local tourists. Yet the number of these returning migrant tourists is increasing.

From 93,831 overseas Filipino tourists in 2001, some 215,934 balikbayan tourists visited the country in 2012–already an all-time high. Data comes from DOT’s Visitors Sample Survey. (The year 2012 is the only publicly-available data thus far form the DOT.)

Filipinos abroad are being egged on by their home country to be ambassadors for foreign tourists--and to be tourists to their own motherland (photo from http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2013/04/why-pinoy-tourists-are-most-likely-to-get-bad-reputations-abroad/)

Filipinos abroad are being egged on by their home country to be ambassadors for foreign tourists–and to be tourists to their own motherland (photo from http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2013/04/why-pinoy-tourists-are-most-likely-to-get-bad-reputations-abroad/)

Data also show that overseas Filipinos spend an average of US$53.85 and they stay in the country for an average of 19.05 days. For 2012, tourism receipts from overseas Filipinos reached US$196.17 per tourist on average; expenditures, on average, from these vacationing migrant Filipinos reached US$39.88 per tourist.

Data from 2012 also show that most of the overseas Filipino tourists are aged 35 to 44 years old (62,193).

Overseas Filipinos as tourists differ by type of migrant. If one is a land-based migrant worker, they come to the Philippines on designated vacation days or weeks from their work, upon their employers’ consent. Yet the DOT, says its website, counts the overseas Filipino tourists as those “Philippine passport holders permanently residing abroad (excluding overseas Filipino workers.”

Immigrants, for their part, take winter days off in the Philippines. But it isn’t clear if dual nationals or Filipinos naturalized abroad, who stay in the Philippines for at most six months, who visit the country are counted as tourists. As for migrant workers, on their spare time vacationing from temporary overseas work, they also visit tourist destinations.

They had an average total receipts which cost $144.77 for the year 2001-2012.

 

Government agencies such as the DOT, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and the embassies and consulates have been egging on Filipinos abroad to visit the country and lure nationals of their host countries–through these Filipino migrants–to go to the Philippines. DOT calls these overseas Filipinos as “tourism ambassadors.”

CFO, for example, has a program for second- or third-generation Filipinos abroad wishing to visit the Philippines to retrace their roots. As well, CFO, DOT, the Philippine Retirement Authority and the Department of Foreign Affairs have operated a program called Pinoy Homecoming to precisely lure the balikbayan tourists by offering them privileges and services that conform to the country’s Balikabayan Law (Republic Act 9174).

The Philippines received some 4.68 million foreign tourists last year and earned some US$4.4 billion (P186.15 billion) in tourism receipts. Unpublished DOT data for 2013 show that there were 203,613 overseas Filipino tourists, lower than 2012 numbers.

From 1975 to 2013, the Philippines’ formal banking system has received over-US$150 billion in remittances. And the country is still determining ways, apart from savings, investments and entrepreneurship, of how overseas Filipinos and their remittances can contribute to Philippine development.

 

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About ERIKA MARIZ CUNANAN with JEREMAIAH OPINIANO