Philippines wants its citizens overseas to ‘Bring Home a Friend’

The Philippines has rolled out anew the “Bring Home a Friend” (BHAF) campaign to boost foreign arrivals in the country. Source: Senior Citizen Travel

THE PHILIPPINES has rolled out anew the “Bring Home a Friend” (BHAF) campaign to boost foreign arrivals in the country and spur economic activities.

Described as an incentive travel programme that other Asian neighbors could emulate to also enhance their respective tourism industry, the BHAF was first launched 23 years ago by then Department of Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor.

Last month, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo led the grand rebirth of BHAF with a dazzling cultural performance and song numbers by renowned Filipino singers and showbiz celebrities in Manila.

“Bring Home a Friend is our shout-out to the world to come and see the Philippines, a country of diverse cultures, rich traditions and unrivaled biodiversity,” Teo said during the relaunching.

“We are looking at positive reaction from the United States, Japan, Middle East and Hong Kong as these are the places where a lot of Filipino communities are,” she added.

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Eventually, we hope to spur more travel from other countries, the tourism chief said.

The campaign is mainly targeting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), touted as “modern-day heroes” for their remittances to their family or relatives back home, pegged at US$26.9 billion last year, an all-time high.

Based on the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016, the Philippines is the third top recipient of overseas remittances, which is topped by India and followed by China.

As of 2015, there are 9.1 million OFWs, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, of which three million reside in the United States while more than two million are based in the Middle East.

Other countries with large numbers of Filipinos are Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Italy and Australia.

Teo noted the BHAF seeks to promote travel to the Philippines by encouraging Filipinos or expatriates in the Philippines to invite friends from abroad with the lure of prizes for both “sponsor” and “invitee.”

An array of lucrative prizes such as a condominium unit, brand new car and shopping voucher worth PHP200,000 (US$3,900) at duty-free shops await lucky sponsors while their guests can win international round-trip flight tickets as well as tour packages to prime tourist destinations in Palawan, Cebu and Davao.

By following four simple steps: Invite, Accept, Travel and Register, any eligible sponsor and invitee can join the campaign.

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Teo said they are expecting more foreign arrivals until early next year as Filipinos are known to celebrate the longest Christmas festivities in the world.

From January to May 2017, foreign arrivals in the Philippines reached almost 2.9 million, up 14 percent from a year ago, with most coming from South Korea, Department of Tourism data showed.

To further boost the country’s tourism industry, she also noted that regional cooperation is important as Asia “experiences a continuous tourism boom unparalleled anywhere in the world,” according to the year 2030 projections of United Nations World Tourism Organization.

“This growth is something we hope for but collaboration among our nations will be the key to continued growth, development and sustainability of tourism in Asia,” Teo stressed.