‘No place like home’– Teo reminds Fil-Ams

FILIPINOS in the United States (US), now numbering nearly 3.5 million, must make time to visit and rediscover their home country, Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said.

Overwhelmed by the staggering number of Filipino-Americans, Teo made the call during her four-day speaking engagements at various Filipino community events in New Jersey and San Francisco last week (12-15 August 2016).

The US is the second top source market for the Philippines, accounting for 15 percent of total visitor arrivals in 2015.

Secretary Teo said US visitors are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, as the Department of Tourism (DOT) works with the travel and tour operators to entice Fil-Ams, as well as the mainstream Americans, to visit the country.

Some 337,000 Fil-Ams reside in the New York and New Jersey areas, where the DOT official was invited to fiesta-like gatherings, which also featured Philippine entertainment celebrities.

From the East Coast, Secretary Teo flew westward to San Francisco and joined over 15,000 people, mostly Fil-Ams, at the Pistahan Parade and Festival 2016 at Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco.

“Undeniably many of our fellow Filipinos experience homesickness and longing to visit our home country, reunite with relatives and friends,” Secretary Teo said.

In New Jersey, she told 500 Fil-Ams at the People’s Ball , “It’ll be great if you invite your American friends and Facebook friends to come see our world-class tourist destinations and experience genuine Filipino hospitality. Remember, there’s no place like home.”

Secretary Teo welcomed the offer of partnership with the Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK) Foundation, an organization that supports a feeding program for grade school kids, and provides new income opportunities for the rural communities. ARK Foundation volunteers are mostly young professionals and next generation Fil-Ams.

“To be able to give back to the community, particularly the marginalized sector, is in fact the bottom line of our inclusive tourism program,” she stressed.

“It is important that those visiting our home country they personally witness the change that is unfolding under the Duterte administration,” the DOT chief added.

In an interview with Fiesta in America president Fernando Mendez and Asian Journal publisher Roger Oriel, Secretary Teo said next gen Filipinos must be encouraged to come to the Philippines and trace their roots.

She also welcomed the support of airline and travel and tourism executives, citing the vital role of flag-carrier Philippine Airlines.

During her meetings, Secretary Teo reaffirmed the plan for Manila’s hosting of the Miss Universe pageant next January at no expense on the part of the government as to its production costs.

The DOT chief discussed partnership with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) to support local communities through infrastructure and product development to harness their unique attractions as tourism destinations.

She also talked about her advocacy for the “one town-one product” concept and the Tourism Promotions Board’s (TPB) funding support to US-based marketing and promotions of medical and Filipino cultural and culinary tourism.

Secretary Teo also said that the DOT will give priority to “underdeveloped destinations” in the Philippines and unravel best-kept secrets, such as those in Davao, Siargao and Cagayan de Oro areas. IZL