A two-way tourism promotion deal between the Philippines and Switzerland is seen by the end of 2020, a Swiss official bared Tuesday.
Ivan Breiter, director of Switzerland Tourism for Southeast Asia, said he and representatives of the Department of Tourism (DOT) have begun discussions on possible partnerships that may be included in the deal, such as digital marketing and the promotion of gastronomy tourism and other niche products.
"(The meeting) was the first official step. After that, we will see and make a list of the different interests that we want to explore, to build up. In my opinion, we will have, first, one or two projects. An official signing can probably take place at the end of the year," Breiter told reporters during a media event hosted by the Swiss Embassy in Manila.
He said the two countries are keen on exploring cooperation in select tourism products, such as culinary tourism and ecotourism.
"We have different topics that we both love with regards to gastronomy. It's a topic (that) we want to explore and see how can we bring chefs from the Philippines to Switzerland and how can we bring Swiss chefs to the Philippines? How can we have a culinary exchange? You know already now there's a lot of Filipinos studying in Switzerland, either hospitality or gastronomy, and so we see a big potential," Breiter said.
He noted a "big" potential in niche products, such as bird watching and mountain activities.
"People who are going for a volcano or hiking up a volcano is, for Switzerland, very special. We don't have that. For Filipinos who like to go hiking, you don't have the Alps with the glaciers, so this is again something that we can work very well together," he added.
'Of strategic importance'
Breiter said Filipino and Swiss markets are strategically important to both countries on several aspects, including tourist spending.
Higher than the 24,000 Swiss visitors recorded in 2015, Manila received more than 31,000 in 2018, some of whom are the big-spending dive tourists.
On Switzerland's side, he said arrivals of Filipino tourists to the European country also increased to 40,000 in 2018 against the recorded 20,000 four years ago, making the Philippines its fifth strongest market in Southeast Asia.
He said their operations in Southeast Asia began seven years ago, with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia and had rallied an increase dramatically, like in the Philippines, in the past four years.
"The economy of the Philippines is going very well and now we have a lot of people who want to go to this dream destination Switzerland," Breiter said.
Although visa relaxation is out of the discussion due to the Schengen rules, he said entering Switzerland has been much easier for Filipinos compared years ago.
"It is much easier now for the Philippines to receive a Schengen visa. The timing is much faster. Of getting an appointment and also the visa process. At the moment, we are at a very good level," Breiter said.
Philippine passport holders are required to obtain a Schengen visa to enter any European country in the Schengen Area, which includes Switzerland.
Source: Philippines News Agency