AMSTERDAM - The Masskara Festival came alive in the Dutch capital last Saturday, 28 September, to aggressively push the Philippines as a major tourism destination.
Tourists in major thoroughfares like Dam Square, Muntplein and Rembrandtplein were surprised and entertained by colorful masked dancers who came all the way from the Philippines.
The dancers were invited by the Department of Tourism (DoT) Frankfurt to introduce to the Dutch and tourists in Amsterdam a different kind of experience, like fiestas, when they come to the Philippines.
The Philippines has always been a familiar destination with the Dutch where the country’s beaches and islands are regular locations for TV shows like survivor reality series Expeditie Robinson and Adam Zoekt Eva. During the biggest travel expo early this year, it was echoed that Dutch tourists seek more alternative destinations that are less touristic like the Philippines.
“Year in year, we’ve been seeing that there’s a growth on the Dutch tourism arrivals going to the Philippines and we want to ride on this and formally say that we are here, we’re promoting ourselves as a premium tourism destination in the Dutch market,” said Margarita Patricia Valdes, DoT’s Tourism Director for Central and Eastern Europe.
The performers not only danced on the streets and posed photos with tourists, but also rode a boat decked with banderitas and ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ banners that sailed through the picturesque Amstel River.
“It is a very effective way for us to really tell, show the people what we mean by ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’. It is one way of launching the campaign and making them feel the fun spirit of the Filipino people,” Valdes said.
The Masskara (a term coined to mean ‘people’ and ‘masks’) festival held in Bacolod City every October began as a symbol for a period of crisis and has evolved into one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.
Princess Singh, the Sto. Nino carrying dancer, who wore an elaborate gold gown and headdress, said she is proud to represent the Philippines.
The Masskara dancers are from Sindaw Philippines Performing Arts Group. They will also go to Paris to have lightning performances.
Besides the Masskara Festival, DoT’s Valdes said there will be a business-to-business campaign in Amsterdam and Paris where tour operators in the Philippines will meet with their counterparts in Europe.
“This is our way of pushing the business and encouraging the Dutch operators to include a package of the Philippines in their portfolio by meeting directly the Philippine travel operators and resorts in making these business deals happen,” she said.