It’s Getting Hot In Here…

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After the successful “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tourism campaign, which observes its first anniversary on Saturday, two more respected international publications have included the country on their list of the top destinations in the world for 2013.  New York-based Travel+Leisure Magazine and the U.K edition of rival Condé Nast Traveller, named the Philippines as one of the 13 “Hottest Travel Destinations of 2013” in its January issue.  The New York Times also placed the country at number 17 on its list of “46 Places to Go in 2013,” ahead of Bangkok, Paris and Casablanca.

“A surfing and beach destination goes luxe … Idyllic white sand beaches, secluded, little-known surf towns and pristine reefs are among the natural draws of this country made up of over 7,000 tropical islands,” The New York Times said.  “Now in addition to the more upscale choices cropping up in former backpacking enclaves like Boracay, there is a new generation of luxury hotels opening even further afield,” it added.

The paper noted the new Dedon Island resort on Siargao, adding that it was “close to one of the world’s best surf breaks, Cloud 9, (of which famous American surfer Kelly Slater is a fan), and has an outdoor cinema along with spa and paddle board classes.  And the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian opens this month in the Unesco biosphere of Palawan, right by some of the world’s most pristine diving spots,” it added.  The New York Times said that while the Philippines has been subject to travel advisories in the past, “they mostly focus on Mindanao in the south.  For extra security, outfitters like Asian expert Remote Lands organize private transfers and local guides,” the paper said.

Travel+Leisure Magazine, which has 4.8 million readers, noted that while there were safety concerns before about the Philippines, it was now “safe to visit once again.  Two countries written off in recent years—Zambia and the Philippines—are safe to visit once again, and thriving with new safari camps and island thatched-roof villas,” Travel+Leisure said.

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“The archipelago of Palawan, a Unesco biosphere reserve in the Philippines, just added a resort with a scuba center; hop a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, and you’ll soon be diving with the sea turtles,” it added.  The magazine particularly mentioned El Nido Pangulasian Island and the 125-acre private island of Ariara in Palawan, and the Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa in Panglao, Bohol.  “Boracay hogs the spotlight, but there are thousands of other islands to lure beach lovers,” Travel+Leisure added. In the same issue, the magazine also named the Discovery Shores Hotel in Boracay as the 5th Best Hotel in the World.  “Barefoot elegance is undoubtedly the vibe on this tiny island, where the 2 1/2-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for being the softest in the world,” the magazine said.  It said that Discovery Shores’ 88 spacious suites all have large glass walls that look toward a scenic rock garden, “but chances are you’ll spend more time by the water. Take a dip in the infinity pool, or jet-ski on the crystalline sea. For people-watching, head to The Sandbar, where they stir up delicious mojitos, infused with local flavors like lychee and mango,” Travel+Leisure said. “Once you’re sufficiently refueled, karaoke your heart out, with over 1,000 songs (mostly in English) to choose from at the resort’s recreation lounge,” it added.

The endorsement from Travel+Leisure came as the UK edition of its competitor, Condé Nast Traveller Magazine, also named the Philippines as one of the top 10 hottest new travel destinations for 2013. “For travelers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world. It’s still not the most obvious beach-holiday destination, but it soon will be,” Condé Nast Traveller said. The magazine said the Philippines was becoming particularly popular among serious divers, who visit for “the incredible underwater life, unspoiled coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs. In Bicol you can swim with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. While fish-fans of a different nature can go deep-sea fishing in one of the deepest trenches in the oceans, not far from the little-known island of Siargao,” the magazine said. “The archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes: palm-fringed white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming on Miniloc Island—all of it protected by Unesco,” it added.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said endorsement from these top publications showed that the Philippines was now “a serious player” in global tourism.  “This is a very good development for our country. It is a very concrete proof that foreigners now have a high awareness and appreciation of the great travel potentials of the Philippines,” Bengzon said. He added that the awareness of foreigners about the country was heightened by the launching of the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign in January last year.  “We’ve advertised and conducted our marketing campaign in all our major markets like Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, India, Korea and China. And in 2013, we will be even more aggressive,” he said. “We are targeting 5.5 million and we are very positive that we can reach that,” Bengzon said. “The feedback to the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign has been very positive not just in terms of tourist arrivals but also in the response from the private sector: from the airlines, travel agents, the hotels and resorts.”

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NOTE: Parts of this story were originally published as an article in Philippine Daily Inquirer By Philip C. Tubeza

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