Next best thing: Virtual PH tour for Apec media
One of the most prominent journalists at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) event was Richard Quest, who hosts the CNN show “Quest Means Business.”
On his Twitter account, CNN’s “business traveler” sought his followers’ response to one major concern upon his arrival in Manila: “If there is one thing I must do/taste/see/ experience while here, what is it?”
His tweet elicited a range of responses, among them: a jeepney ride, a tour of Intramuros, the Manila Bay sunset and the local food, including lechon, balut and halo-halo (pig roasted on a spit, fermented duck egg and the ice dessert of sweetened fruits).
But if Apec journalists can’t go to the country’s tourist sights, then the sights must come to them.
So thought Palace officials, who made sure that journalists covering the Apec meeting in Manila would get their fill as well of the country’s top tourist attractions, even if only through promotional videos at the International Media Center (IMC) and onboard media buses.
“When you guys come and cover a big summit like this, we understand that you are just cooped up in the media center… [with] very little opportunity for you to go out and see what the country has to offer,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told the Inquirer in an interview.
“So we decided to bring [the sights] here,” she added, of the video at the media center that showed a continuing loop of popular tourist attractions and destinations in the Philippines.
From Batanes’ rolling hills and Vigan’s cobblestoned streets, to Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone and Siargao’s surfing waves, the tourist spots took center stage on the media center’s cinema-sized screen, filling in the airtime whenever live feed from Apec events was not available.
The enticement seemed to have worked, with several journalists expressing their intention to come back as tourists and check out the sights.
Roughly 3,500 journalists and technical staff from 21 Apec member-economies signed up for accreditation at the IMC, which opened on Nov. 11, ahead of the culminating week of the Philippines’ yearlong hosting of Apec meetings.
Among the biggest delegations were those from Japan, with more than 150 journalists covering the Manila event, and South Korea, which flew in at least 70 journalists.
Senior foreign journalists were among those who came to Manila, some for the first time, despite speculations that they might back out at the last minute due to the competing demands of covering the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.
“I did not hear that anyone backed out,” Valte said, adding that the Apec summit was able to reach its estimated target of delegates.
Pete Souza, the legendary White House chief photographer, posted a total of 11 photos on his Instagram account that captured unguarded moments and sidelights of US President Barack Obama’s Manila visit.
Among his posts were those of Obama watching the famous Manila Bay sunset, the American President at the helm of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a former US Coast Guard ship donated to the Philippines, and Obama huddled with fellow Apec leaders before the welcome dinner, all of them in crisp, pristine barong.
For the government, the tourism video was a bid as well to make reporting “more fun in the Philippines”—the viral campaign slogan of the Department of Tourism that has garnered strong social media support since its launch in 2012.
“… [I]t’s not really a target, but it’s one of our aspirations that most of you who come through here will be encouraged to come back, and then take a vacation … and even for locals, to get out and see your country more,” Valte said.
It was an invitation that several journalists were seriously considering, among them first-time Philippine visitor and Russian television journalist Konstantin Rozhkov who expressed hopes of seeing the Philippines beyond Manila.
“I had an opportunity to get out of this restricted zone to see the Manila financial center on Ayala Avenue, where there are a lot of skyscrapers. It looks very much like Asia booming,” Rozhkov said, recounting his trip on the Philippine “funny car,” the jeepney.
When he returns, he would like to “maybe see the remote islands with the tranquil and calm atmosphere,” said the broadcast reporter of Russia’s Channel 5.
Aristodemo Lattanzi of Chile’s UCV Television said he’d like to come back as well, but probably not to Manila. “I think I want [to go to] some beaches, some nice places around the islands… Manila is like a metropolis. Maybe I prefer some other places, (like the) beaches,” he said.
Valte said many Apec delegates expressed interest in several Philippine venues throughout the Apec event, among them Bagac in Bataan province, Iloilo City, Boracay and Tagaytay City.
“In fact it’s funny, but many of the delegates really rush through their meetings, and tell themselves ‘OK, if we do this right, we can get off at 4:30 p.m. and then we can all go to the beach.’ So it’s nice, even at the end of a long day,” said the Palace official.
Aside from a glimpse of the country’s famous tourist spots, journalists at the IMC were treated as well to a taste of Filipino hospitality, including free traditional massage and accessible shopping through an on-site exposition of Philippine-made crafts and products, where they could buy native bags, accessories, clothes, delicacies and even furniture.
“[E]verything that our finest craftsmen can do, we decided to bring here,” Valte said. “We know that you guys have very limited time, but want to still have access to [local crafts and gifts and] see the furniture, in the hope that you don’t have to go out just to bring a bag of dried mangoes back home,” she added.
Philippine tourist arrivals have seen an increase in recent years, jumping 10.76 percent to 3.983 million from January to September of this year, from 2014 figures of 3.596 million within the same period.
The Asian market remains the country’s biggest source of tourists, with 264,143 visitors from nearby countries accounting for 67.11 percent of the total arrivals in September.