The Department of Tourism through the Office of Product and Market Development, in cooperation with the DOT Region 7 Office, welcomed local and international speakers who shared information on where the Philippines stands as a Study English destination during the 1st Philippine Education Tourism Conference (PETC) held last July 29-30, 2019, in Mactan, Cebu.
Cebu hosts the first-ever Philippine Education Tourism Conference, DOT teams up with ESL schools
Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., Undersecretary of the Tourism Development Planning for the Department of Tourism, also spearheaded the media briefing to identify what can be done to improve the offerings to foreigners to be able to source the market in Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Thailand, and soon in Europe. The DOT encouraged local ESL schools to offer structured tour packages to ESL learners by incorporating English-learning activities in the travel experience.
Together with Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, DOT 7 – Central Visayas Regional Director, Bengzon expressed how excited the Tourism Department to have this opportunity for a fruitful exchange of ideas and aspirations in making the Philippines part of the lives of every student traveler. RD Tamano also mentioned that the office of the DOT Region 7 in Central Visayas was also very pleased to host the first PETC in Cebu.
Cebu as the primary ESL hub in the Philippines
One of the major contributing factors is Cebu’s connectivity to major international destinations such as Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, and Thailand among others. In 2018, 10 international flights were opened. This greatly helped in increasing the tourist arrivals in the region which reached more than 8 million in 2018 and generated ₱44.2 Billion of tourism receipts. This data, however, does not include yet the thousands of students who came to Cebu to study English.
As of 2018, Central Visayas has 165 Higher Education institutions, and 15 of them are declared as Centers of Excellence and Developments in various programs such as Accounting, Nursing, Teachers Education, Information Technology, Environmental Science, Dentistry, Medicine, Business Administration, and Law.
At the moment, there are 150 ESL Centers in the region who are registered and recognized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Bureau of Immigration. The region’s identified top source markets are Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, and Thailand.
Central Visayas’ current position is by no means by chance. It is an idea initially conceived by Koreans and Japanese living in Cebu to bring in more tourists to the country in a different setting. Recognizing Cebu’s good educational environment, top-notch graduates and proficient English speaking population, ESL education in the region was born. Among the edge of Cebu and the region in the market are direct flights to key markets in Asia and the Middle East. As of April 2019, Cebu has 595 flights per week, with daily flights on several airlines from the said destinations.
Another advantage is the presence of facilities such as schools, restaurants, and leisure places with a good English speaking environment. Students get to practice what they learn every day as they interact with the locals and their fellow students. But most of all, Cebu is one of the country’s top tourist destinations. The Department of Tourism Regional 7 in Central Visayas made sure that learning and education will be fun by allowing students to explore the region, meet the locals and learn the history, culture, and traditions as Cebuanos, Bisaya and Filipino.
Expansion and more rooms for improvement in Cebu and Central Visayas
The region has barely tapped the top of the iceberg in the ESL market. With new connectivity coming in through the partnership with the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, and the Panglao Bohol International Airport, the Regional Office of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas is confident that more will come to Cebu and the Philippines from new source markets in Asia, Europe, and possibly Africa.
The booming property development, especially in Cebu, contributed greatly as well in the market expansion. ESL became a key driver for office space as demand continues to grow. This also attempts the development of new attractions and sites to make learning more fun and engaging. Representatives from Cebu Safari, Kool Adventure Camp, and Cebu Ocean Park to name a few are ready to partner with the project in creating memorable learning experiences.
To ensure that the market continues to grow and move forward, the Office of the Department of Tourism continues to upgrade and institutionalize safety and security procedures, lobby for a water taxi transport system to improve short inter-island connectivity and enhance data and statistics gathering. As the education system in the Philippines continues to improve, the number of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in the region is also increasing. This ushers a more competitive academic environment whereby the drive for excellence will be at the forefront.
The Philippines: One of the largest English-speaking countries in Asia
About 93.5% of the population in the Philippines can speak and understand English. In the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), the mean score of the Philippines is 710, placing 10th worldwide and the highest among Asian countries. The Philippines also continues to learn the scores for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a mean score of 6.8 in the Academic category and 6.2 in General training, placing third to Germany and United Kingdom.
Being its official language both in school and for business, Filipinos have gained proficiency to understand, write, speak, and teach the language. English spoken by Filipinos has a neutral accent and is easily understood. In addition, the Philippines is one of the few countries offering one-on-one English education, a form of instruction preferred by students and provided by Filipino teachers who are naturally nurturing, patient, and understanding.
With the abundance of natural and man-made resources in the country and most schools located in multi-faceted destinations, the students can visit a variety of attractions and indulge in different fun activities during their free time where they can immerse and practice the use of the language in an English speaking environment.
The Department of Tourism is working towards creating a clear and competitive Philippine Education Tourism brand by recognizing distinct product strengths, boosting the status of the Philippines in the global education tourism market, and promoting quality standards of excellence to ensure that students have a learning experience that is effective, safe, and enjoyable.
The Department is gearing for participation in several education fairs abroad and holding more workshops and seminars for the local ESL schools.
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Representatives from different ESL schools were present during the Philippine Education Tourism Conference media briefing. Eurena Geralla, President of English Philippines; Mike Cabigon, Country Manager for Learning Services of the British Council; and Eli Natividad, Founder and Director of the Teachers of ESL Association of the Philippines (TESLA Philippines) completed the panel of speakers and guests during the round-table session held at Triphora Function Room of JPark Island Resort & Waterpark Cebu.
To know more about the Philippine Education Tourism Conference or any programs from the Department of Tourism – Central Visayas, you can follow them on their Official DOT Central Visayas Facebook Page. You can also follow the DOT Central Visayas Twitter Page.