ENCOURAGED by growing demand from South Korea and Japan, the Philippine's Department of Tourism (DoT) is leading the charge in tapping the English as Second Language (ESL) niche market.
The NTO is ramping up its marketing efforts by forging connections with more overseas partners, aiding foreign travel agencies in coming up with more tour packages including ESL components, and wooing students from the China, Vietnam and Russia markets.
DoT is looking to promote its ESL programme through mainland travel fairs in said countries, and last week led a sales mission to Russia.
Renee Marie Reyes, division chief for ESL niche marketing, DoT, said that the new push should help secure 30,000 Japanese, 6,000 South Korean, 3,000 mainland China and 1,200 Vietnamese students.
According to ESL schools and DoT officials interviewed, the Philippines was a prime choice for Asian ESL students due to its proximity, reasonable tuition fees, quality instruction and modules varying in length and group size.
South Korea remains the biggest market, but Reyes observed that Japan was fast gaining ground. The number of travel agencies selling ESL programmes in Japan has shot to 21, from just five four years ago.
A spokesperson from a major Japanese travel agency said the company was looking to tie up with more ESL schools and believes that Japan’s elderly population was a fertile ESL market.
However, Philippine-based travel agencies are finding it hard to tap this market. Nelya Schneider, sales and marketing planning manager for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Blue Horizons Travel & Tours, said a key problem was that ESL schools “rarely cooperate”.
“We’re not trying to get the business from them. We just need to help develop these products,” she emphasised. “They cannot get volume business without us.”
There are 34 DoT-accredited ESL schools in the Philippines, but a cursory check in Manila showed that many do not have tie-ups with travel agencies, operating their own accommodations and school trips.