MANILA -- Entries are now being accepted for the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) Bring Home a Friend to the Philippines (BHAF), an incentive program that encourages Filipinos to help promote tourism by inviting foreign friends for “a reunion of sorts.”

The contest, which runs from October 15, 2017 to April 15, 2018, allows Filipinos residing here and abroad as well as expatriates based in the Philippines to win prizes in the electronic raffle draw for simply inviting their foreign friends to come visit the Philippines.

“We have this reunion of sorts to redefine Philippine tourism,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in her speech during the launch of BHAF in Resort’s World Manila on Saturday night.

Teo said the success of the program would not be measured in terms of the number of foreign invitees entering the country but on its ability to “empower” Filipinos to actively take part in tourism promotion.

"The success we are hoping for is our ability to empower our people and give them the opportunity to contribute to our people’s growth. They are after all the core strength of our tourism campaign. It’s more than bringing friends and family back home…It’s our shout out to the world to come and see the Philippines,” Teo added.

Prizes to be won for “sponsors” (Filipinos inviting foreign friends) include an Eastwood Le Grand Tower studio condo unit (first prize), an orange metallic Toyota Vios 2017 Model (second prize), or PHP 200,000 worth of gift certificates from Duty Free (third prize).

Meanwhile, prizes for “invitees” (foreign friends visiting the Philippines) include two roundtrip international business class tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Palawan (first prize), two roundtrip international premium economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Cebu (second prize), and two roundtrip international economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Davao (third prize).

To join, the sponsor and invitee must duly accomplish the registration via the BHAF microsite accessible via the DOT website or through the booths located at specific airports. Full instructions can also be found in the website.

BHAF’s upgrade
BHAF was first introduced by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor in 1994 when a “tambiolo” or raffle system was then used.

In an interview with reporters, Tourism Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre said he hopes that being digital this time, the contest will get online traffic.

“We’re very confident with the type of social media presence Filipino have it will pick up and catch fire. It’s something that triggers more attention and people themselves will make it happen,” Alegre said.

During the BHAF launch, the DOT also introduced actor-singer Piolo Pascual as BHAF Tourism Ambassador who was also taken to sing the program’s jingle.

Gabor, who was present during the event, meanwhile lauded Teo’s efforts to revive a program first launched some 23 years ago.

“It’s very difficult to an official of the administration to do a program that has been done by predecessor. But she was determined and showed that she was brave to go through with the project,” Gabor said in a short speech.

Gabor said Teo broke the barrier of government officials by continuing a good project.

“She (Teo) really deserves a big hand. A program like this should not die. It’s a classic program it should continue,” she added.

According to the DOT, word-of-mouth plays a big role in motivating tourists to visit the Philippines.

Data from the DOT 2016 Visitors Sample Survey showed that 51.80 percent of tourists came to the Philippines upon friend’s recommendation. (PNA)