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By: Victor Anthony V. Silva February 27,2017 - 11:03 PM

Morad Tayebi, (above, right) regional director for Southeast Asia of Atout France,  leads the group from France who are on a tourism information and marketing campaign in the country. At right is Notre-Dame de Paris, which Tayebi says attracts millions of tourists every year.

Morad Tayebi, (above, right) regional director for Southeast Asia of Atout France, leads the group from France who are on a tourism information and marketing campaign in the country. At right is Notre-Dame de Paris, which Tayebi says attracts millions of tourists every year.

French executives wooing religious tourists in Cebu

French tourism executives are looking into Filipinos, especially Cebuanos, as a possible market to grow further its religious tourism sector.

Morad Tayebi, regional director for Southeast Asia of Atout France, the promotions arm of the French Ministry of Tourism, said that France has a niche market in the Philippines for religious tourism since the country is known to be predominantly Christian, making it number one among its peers in Southeast Asia.

Cebuanos are particularly known for their devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño, with millions attending activities for the Feast of the Holy Child Jesus in January each year.

With this in mind, Tayebi and his group made their first stop in Cebu for their tourism information and marketing campaign. Manila is their next stop.

French drive

Tayebi and his group, composed of representatives from French city tourism offices and a tour operator, were in Cebu this week to market religious destinations in France to local travel agencies.

He said they are working hard to educate their market that France is more than just the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

“All travel agents know about France, but their knowledge is quite low. Apart from Paris, they don’t know much. We want them to look to other regions and other destinations. We have so much more to offer,” said Tayebi in a press conference on Monday at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City.

PH economic growth

He said he sees a huge potential in the Philippine market, given the country’s robust economic growth and the expansion of its middle-income population.

He also said the Philippines is set to be included in their list of priority countries by next year.

“By 2022, the Philippines is expected to be France’s third biggest market in Southeast Asia for leisure, incentives, and religious activities,” he said.
The Philippine economy grew by 6.9 percent in 2016, outpacing its Asian neighbors and cementing its title as the region’s “rising tiger.”

Tourist volume

He said the Philippines is currently fifth in the region in terms of tourist volume, having sent 70,000 visitors to France in 2016 and registering a growth rate of 5 to 10 percent from the previous year.

Indonesia ranks first at 150,000 tourists; Malaysia at second with 130,000; Singapore and Malaysia at third and fourth with roughly around 110,000 each.

France welcomed a total of 82.5 million visitors last year, registering a drop of around 2.7 percent due to reported terror attacks in Paris in 2015.
Europeans and Asians account for the growing number of foreign tourists in France, with Germans making up the greatest number, followed by the British.

Niche market

In France, religious tourism, long considered as a niche, is a rapidly expanding business.

With 50,000 religious buildings, among which 10,000 are listed as Protected Historical Monuments and some are even listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, France has the widest range of spiritual sites open to the general public among any country in Europe.

Notre-Dame de Paris and Sacré-Couer de Montmarte attract 13 million and 10.5 million annual visitors, respectively.

Each year, millions of people visit the sanctuaire marial de Lourdes (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes) while 3.5 million go to Mont Saint-Michel.

Biggest industry

France, while a secular country, is home to mostly Christians, followed by Muslims, and then Jews.

Tayebi said tourism is France’s biggest industry, contributing 8 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year and has generated over two million jobs.

DOT on France

As the French tourism executives embark on tourism campaign, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), meanwhile, also sees the potential in France as an emerging market.

It was reported late last year that Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo targets to double French tourist arrivals in the Philippines by 2020.

To achieve this, the official said the DOT was set to intensify its marketing strategy and expand its reach on social media to promote destinations in the country.

The Philippines welcomed a total of 45,505 visitors from France in 2015, contributing $34 million in tourist receipts during the covered period.
France has been identified as one of the top 20 emerging markets of Philippine tourism, having registered a growth rate of 21.96 percent in the first seven months of 2016 to 35,378 arrivals from 29,007 in the same period in 2015.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebuanos, Filipinos, French, GROWING, market, niche, tourism

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