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November 23, 2018

LOOKING FOR THE SUSTAINABLE TOURIST

Irineo “Rene” Reyes knows exactly what his Chinese tourists want. After spending eight years in Taipei and now a year in Shanghai, this Tourism Attache knows his prospects and clients well

“They are looking for food other than adobo,” he says. Even if every Filipino tour presents our local or national dish— the adobo—Reyes says his tourists want different flavors, too. And in the absence of such choices they then look for familiar food served in our many Chinese restaurants: fresh vegetables, salads, fruits and choices of soup and noodles. It’s not just shrimp adobo, squid adobo, and chicken or pork adobo.

“We need new tourist products to offer them,” he intimates to us at the recent Hainan International Coffee Congress where the Philippines was offered a pavilion to showcase our coffee products. So, we, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) offered him a coffee crawl in Makati, an agro-tourism tour In Cavite and other destinations which he can sell to his new target: Chinese Coffee aficionados who gathered In Hainan and did not think twice about buying even at the high prices of specialty coffee.

“The Chinese Tourist can spend P66,000 per trip,” he tells me. But I observed that many of these tourists only shop in Manila, and he agrees. “Yes, many are zero-based, meaning their hotel and airfare have already been paid in China,” he explains.

While going over the brochures he brought to the Congress, Reyes explains that he now is promoting to a higher spender. He is open to selling new “products” as tourist activities are called. These higher spenders can buy coffee, take cooking classes, and visit farms. “It is the experience these higher spenders look for” and maybe that will be changing soon.

Reyes agrees with DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat that there are tourists looking for experiences rather than just shopping and that spells the difference. It also promotes sustainable tourism as higher spenders are aware about eco-tourism standards. It is also strongly encouraged to preserve the environment while enjoying one’s experience in any destination. I mentioned to him about Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and the standards which are in harmony with our environmental laws anyway. “We do not want another Boracay,” I repeat to him. He agrees and shares “Sustainable tourism is the answer and I can find tourists from China who may just be perfect for that”. Give him products to sell and he will. That kept us thinking of China’s burgeoning coffee industry. Who does not want to pick coffee and see it roasted and then drink it?

There are a billion potential coffee drinkers and they can very well afford good coffee and better-priced tours. Reyes is in an important position that will change the profile of the usual Chinese tourist. He knows this could be his legacy as he may just change the metrics from number of tourists to dollars or yuan delivered per passenger or per tourist.

And it’s about time we stopped counting heads who spend less but start counting dollars from lesser tourists, thereby preserving the resources and going below the carrying capacity of each island.

Rene Reyes (right) of DOT entertains prospective Chinese Coffee Tourists.

Again, we don’t want another Boracay. We don’t and cannot support mass tourism. It’s time to change the metrics from simple numbers of tourists to amount in dollars as a measure of success in Tourism.

Reyes may just be the game changer.

 

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