Our Department of Tourism recently organized a Tourism Industry Coordination Meeting and Workshop. The purpose of the gathering was to get everybody in the industry committed to further strengthening their involvement in the achievement of the department’s tourist arrivals target.
Attending the event were officers of the different tourism organizations in the country and some representatives from the private sector, all stakeholders in our country’s fastest growing industry.
An interesting feature of the event was the setting up of several counters all over the room, each representing a specific niche tourism market which we, the stakeholders, could affiliate ourselves with and discuss how we could help them with their marketing efforts.
Because I am also a member of the academe, one niche market that caught my attention was educational tourism. Although current arrivals in this particular market are barely enough to create ripples in our economy, I see this as an important tool to further banner our country’s lead in the field of education.
Records show that, in 2013, only 23,000 foreign students enrolled in ESL (English as a Second Language) courses in our schools. However, last year, this number zoomed up to 60,000, with these top five countries sending us their students—South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, and Russia, in that order.
What is even more significant, and a source of pride for me is that my hometown, Cebu City, leads the pack of cities in the country that have the most number of ESL schools with 150, followed by Baguio which has 20, and Clark which has 10. All these schools are accredited by TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) and by our Bureau of Immigration.
To ensure that these schools maintain the quality of education they give their students through the years, representatives from DoT spot-check on them regularly, and interview students on-the-spot for feedback.
To increase enrollment, officers of these schools and designated representatives from our DoT take part in foreign educational fairs, with the latest ones added to their list are those in Russia, Thailand, and Italy. No wonder the number of students yearning for our brand of English continues to increase by leaps and bounds yearly.
Renne Marie Reyes, head of DoT’s ESL Market Development Group and Marissa Masangkay, her assistant, were nice enough to explain to me the immigration documents required of these foreign students.
For those availing of short courses, all they need is an SSP (Student Study Permit), which can easily be obtained from our embassies/consulates abroad. But, if they prefer the longer degree courses, they need to have a Student Visa.
I met Sunjae Hwang, owner of SMEAG Global Education in Cebu. This leading ESL school has three campuses in that city plus one in Tarlac. He and his assistant, Jeffrey Allain Jayme, were grinning from ear-to-ear as they shared with me the good news that their school just bagged 100 Russians to take up short courses at their Cebu schools.
I am really happy to know that educational tourism has grown sturdy roots in our country’s continuously evolving tourism landscape. I look forward to the day when it will be recognized by our local businessmen as a significant and profitable investment, further validating our proficiency in the use of English as a Second Language.
For feedback, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOUR weekend CHUCKLE
HUSBAND: I had some words with my wife…and she had some paragraphs with me!
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