Wed. Feb 26th, 2020

Woo independent tourists, expert urges Palawan stakeholders

James (Zunho) Lee, regional manager of Korea’s Klook Travel, while making a presentation about 'The Changing Landcape of Travel: The Rise of FITs' in Puerto Princesa City on August 24, 2018. The presentation is part of the ASEAN-Korea Centre's aim to familiarize Palaweño travel and tour operators about what Korean free independent travelers (FITs) do to spend their holidays. (Photo by Department of Tourism)

An Asian travel expert from Korea told Palawan vacation and leisure retailers Friday to increase their “strategic partnership” with companies that sell holiday activities across the world to woo “free independent travelers” or FITs.

James (Zunho) Lee, regional manager of Korea’s Klook Travel, said everyone should work together to further develop Puerto Princesa’s and Palawan’s tourism industries to cater to the FITs whose population “is growing at an extremely fast rate” in his country.

Lee said FITs is a travel concept that is very new to a lot of people.

“(They) avoid buildup tourism and the tour package concept commonly promoted by travel operators, in favor of a more individualistic approach to travel,” he said.

“Anybody who books a flight on his own, books a hotel on his own, and books experiences on his own, is called FIT. Everything that is not a package or group tour is (considered as) FITs,” he pointed out.

Lee, who was among the speakers at the ASEAN-Korea Tourism Capacity Building Workshop, presented this as part of his lecture on “The Changing Landscape of Travel: The Rise of FITs.”

The workshop was sponsored by the ASEAN-Korea Centre headed by Secretary General Lee Hyuk, Department of Tourism, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

It is part of introducing who the Korean tourists are to Palawan travel and tour operators, especially because their arrivals have been increasing since the opening of direct flights in June from Busan and Incheon international airports.

Korean FITs are emerging at a tremendously fast rate, which means they are a huge demand in the world travel market that the Philippines needs to supply through companies like Klook, he said.

Lee said the Korean presence on social media platforms are quick in increasing too, but they are mostly on Instagram, where the hashtags for the best travel experiences can be readily searched and viewed.

“About a year or two years ago, everybody was on Facebook. Now, nobody uses Facebook anymore. Everybody’s on Instagram, posting daily what to do. Hashtags, they do everything on Instagram,” he said.

Lee added online travel is affected by mobile apps and social media, and Koreans are “very, very, very fast in adopting to new technology, using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram yesterday and tomorrow,” and no matter what, Koreans are swift to access them.

Those who travel are also young, who like to be casual and be themselves, and who like to trust that their traveler suppliers would provide them with adventure activities that are safe for them, he said.

“The concept of traveling today is changing every day at a superfast phase. It doesn’t matter what channel you use, it doesn’t matter what blogs you read or social media you use, what’s important to understand is that everything changes,” Lee said.

Hence, travel and tour retailers have to also adapt fast to the changing landscape of the leisure industry.

He added that they have to understand that every Korean owns smart phones where they can do everything using their fingertips to travel the world easily and create memories.

Assistant city tourism officer, Demetrio Alvior, said back in 2017 that Taiwanese visitors topped the list of foreign guests who visited the city, followed by Americans, Chinese, Koreans, and British.

However, this trend might change towards the end of the year with “either Koreans or Chinese dominating foreign arrivals” because of the direct international flights from their countries, Alvior said.

“The Chinese and the Koreans might top this year’s list of the most number of arrivals in the city because of the direct international flights we’re having now,” he said.

He said that in 2016 US nationals topped the list of foreign arrivals but are expected to slide to only fourth this year.

Tourist arrivals in Puerto Princesa reached more than one million in 2017 with 664,438 domestic tourists and 366,114 foreigners, official data show. (PNA)

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