Friday, 26 May 2017

PHILIPPINES: Philippines Woos More Russian Tourists After An Agreement With Federal Agency Of Tourism Of Russia

The Department of Tourism eyes more Russian tourist arrivals after inking an agreement with the Federal Agency of Tourism of Russia in Moscow today.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said the Joint Action Program of Tourism Cooperation is expected to boost tourism between the Philippines and Russia as both parties agree to establish contacts between the national tourism organizations of both countries.

"The Russians are coming though they are very particular about safety and security in any prospective destination. The agreement signifies Moscow's confidence in the Philippine government's capability to resolve peace and order issues," Teo said.

She said Russia was a high growth market with 9,152 arrivals in January-February period this year, representing a 29.2 percent increase from last year.

The Russian government is also mulling a Russian language training program for Filipino tourism industry workers, according to Teo.

Teo is part of the Philippine delegation which accompanied President Duterte in his visit to Russia.

The Department of Tourism said it was not surprised that Philippines dropped in tourism rankings, but it was doing its best to improve inbound visits.

"The Department of Tourism's (DOT) does not find surprising the slight drop of the Philippines' ranking in the latest Travel and Competitive Report," DOT said in a statement Tuesday.

The DOT said it also "takes cognizance of the 2017 WEF Report released this week as a significant study, a useful resource in planning and prioritization."

Philippines' tourism ranking dropped five notches, according to the 2017 World Economic Forum's (WEF) Travel and Competitive Report.

This year, the country ranked 79th out of 136 countries, while it ranked 74th out of 141 countries in 2015.

The country's rating was dragged down by its lack of cultural resources and business travel. Other factors included ground and port infrastructure and air transport infrastructure.

In 2016, the country received 5.4 million visitor arrivals, according to the WEF report.

But DOT said the administration was "certainly taking steps to boost tourism sustainability and inclusivity, by improving business climate and creating jobs with new policies and measures being instituted at both national and local levels."

DOT said it was working to relax visa policy and process, especially on China, with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Finance, and the Bureau of Immigration.

The department's 2016 and 2017 budgets were reduced due to the completion of activities in the previous administration's National Tourism Development Plan.

Improvements and new construction at major international airports are currently being fast-tracked under the Public-Partnership Program programs, DOT added.

Meanwhile, Egypt has unearthed an ancient burial site replete with at least 17 mummies, most fully intact, the latest in a string of discoveries that the country's antiquities minister described as a helping hand from the crypt for its struggling tourism sector.

The funerary site, uncovered eight meters below ground in Minya, a province about 250 km (150 miles) south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins, and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script.

The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar.

The mummies have not yet been dated but are believed to date to Egypt's Greco-Roman period, a roughly 600-year span that followed the country's conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, according to Mohamed Hamza, a Cairo University archaeology dean in charge of the excavations.

Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travelers that once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but which have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising.

"2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries. It's as if it's a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back," Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani told a news conference announcing the find on Saturday.

Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants.

Archaeologists have excavated a slew of relics in recent months that include a nobleman's tomb from more than 3,000 years ago, 12 cemeteries that date back about 3,500 years, and a giant colossus believed to depict King Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 BC.

Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month the new finds could boost tourist arrivals this year to about 10 million, an improvement from the 9.3 million visitors that came in 2015 but still far below the 14.7 million from 2010. No 2016 figure is yet available.

The tourism sector, a crucial source of hard currency, has struggled to regain ground amid a growing number of militant attacks, including two Islamic State church bombings last month.

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