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Monday, June 24, 2024

PH makes a strong impression at International Wellness Tourism Expo in Tokyo

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Now in its second year, the International Wellness Tourism (iWT) Expo was recently held at the massive Tokyo Big Sight, Japan’s largest international exhibition center. The venue has 16 exhibition halls, and 24 conference rooms, and handles approximately 300 expos every year. It can easily be identified on the city’s landscape by its unique inverted pyramids.

The iWT, organized by RX Japan Ltd. (sister company of RX Global Ltd., organizers of the very popular annual World Travel Mart in London) is Japan’s first exhibition dedicated to wellness tourism.  

The Expo aims to give wellness tourism the prominence it deserves and contribute to the future in which people around the world can achieve physical and mental well-being through travel.  This three-day global event featured trade exhibitions, international conferences, and business-to-business sessions.

From left: DOT Director for Product and Market Development Paulo Tugbang, DOT Regional Director for the Cordillera Administrative Region Jovita Ganongan, Tourism Attaché in Tokyo Niel Ballesteros, Bukidnon 4th District Representative Laarni Roque, Guimaras District Representative Ma. Lucille Nava, and PRA General Manager and CEO Roberto Zozobrado

This was the first time that the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) participated, and it occupied a 48.6-square-meter booth which it shared with some of our country’s wellness tourism stakeholders.  

Naturally, as an attached agency of the DOT, the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) did not want to lose out on the opportunity to meet the event’s expected senior attendees.   

PRA wants to promote our country as the Asian region’s preferred retirement haven. As of the last count, 4,271 Japanese nationals have applied for the Special Resident Retirees Visa (SRRV) and have settled here in our country. Our current Marketing strategy is to increase participation in similar events all over the world that attract senior citizens so that the present number (78,342) of foreign retirees in our country will continue to increase through the years.

The Philippine booth for the iWT Expo showcases the country’s potential as a premier location for retirement

On the Expo’s Opening Day, the Philippine booth’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting was participated in by Bukidnon Representative Laarni Lavin Roque, Guimaras Representative Ma. Lucille Nava, DOT Attache and Director for East Japan Niel Ballesteros, DOT Director Paulo Benito Tugbang, and myself.

DOT had the clever strategy of featuring the famous Filipino version of massage, the “Hilot’” in the lounge at the center of the Philippine booth, for which attendees to the event patiently queued up.  I wanted to try it myself but the queue never got short so I decided to give way to the curious Japanese crowd and let them experience and enjoy it while they could. 

PRA Executive Assistant Don Valerio explains the details about the SRRV to an attendee

I’m glad that our country has positioned itself as the next emerging destination for wellness and medical tourism, especially with our high-quality healthcare services, further heightened by the compassion and love of our healthcare professionals.

It was quite heartwarming to see many elderly Japanese drop by our desk to ask for more details about the SRRVs that we process for those who intend to make our country their new home.  Of course, we had to ask the two students, contracted by DOT as interpreters, to help us explain to the guests the intricacies of the special visa we granted the retirees.

PRA Marketing Department Manager Noehl Bautista (right) talks with one of the attendees

When I asked those who came to the PRA Desk what they liked most about retiring in the Philippines, their most common answer was – our people.  A lot also said they like Filipino food.  What is most significant is that the Japanese who have settled down in our country are not clustered around a particular region or city but are all over the different provinces.

With more participation in similar events catering to the senior population, I do not doubt more foreign retirees will make our country their next home.  Additional information on the SRRV and PRA’s other activities may be obtained from www.pra.gov.ph or +632 8848 1412.

For feedback, I’m at bobzozobrado@gmail.com

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