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Philippines uses ESL to boost tourism

The Philippines is aiming to attract 4.5 million international tourists this year and part of its tactic is to use the 500 English language teaching centres around the country to bring in students through the ESL Tour Program. At least 30,000 students a year are known to study in the country, a figure the government is keen to boost.

Tropical destinations like Palawan Beach attract foreign students interested in combing English learning with island excursions

93.5% of Filipinos are able to speak and understand English well

Launched in 2005, organisers say they have seen growth every year thanks to direct marking to their regional Asian neighbours. The promotional message combines claims of being just as good as Australia, the US or the UK for English language training and promising tropical getaways.

“The Philippines can compete with the US, UK or Australia as an ideal destination for studying the English language,” said Ruth Tizon, programme director. “Aside from its large English-speaking population, competent schools and faculty, the Philippines has a rich cultural heritage, offers diverse tourism attractions and activities, and warmth and hospitality not found anywhere else in the world.”

In addition to English training, the centres offer tour packages to ESL enrolees.  An ESL Tour Package may consist of a city tour, cultural tour, beach trip or island-hopping tour. English lessons are conducted while on the excursion.

English is widely spoken in the Phillipines with 93.5% of Filipinos able to speak and understand it well. It is the language of business and instruction in schools and universities.

In addition to English training, the centres offer tour packages to ESL enrolees

Student tourists who wish to partake in the programme, after securing their visas, must provide also proof of enrolment at one of the English language centres authorised by the Bureau of Immigration in order to receive their Special Study Permit (SSP) upon arrival in the Philippines.

In 2009, 22,962 SSPs were issued by the Bureau to foreign students who wish to study English in the Philippines. In 2010, this number had increased to 30, 715. According to organisers, the majority of students come from Korea, Japan, China and India.

Jabez International Education Center in Makati City has been an authorised provider since the programme was launched and has seen a 70% increase in its student population.

Head teacher Joel Torres says the school specifically targets Korean students because the owner are Koreans. “But it’s possible to develop the programme to other nationalities,” he said.

Depending on the season, Jabez organises beach trips to Batanagas or tours to heritage sites. “I think students find the Philippines friendlier. Aside from being a great place to visit we are more approachable,” said Torres. “It’s cheaper and our accent is easier to understand for Asian students. We have a more humanistic approach to teaching in the Philippines.”

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