Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue October 25 2016

American Travelers Unconcerned About Firebrand Philippines President

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | October 25, 2016

American Travelers Unconcerned About Firebrand Philippines President

Photo via Wikipedia

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, is nothing if not colorful.

The hot-headed Duterte referred to President Obama as “the son of a whore” as he was in the process of warning the U.S. not to question his recently launched drug war, which killed 2,400 people without trial in two months.

In the same statement in which he called Obama’s mother a whore, he demanded that Obama show respect.

“You must be respectful,” he said, according to Agence-France Presse. “Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum. We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me.”

Soon after, Obama canceled a meeting scheduled to take place with Duterte at the end of a G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, saying, “I always want to make sure that if I’m having a meeting that it’s actually productive and we’re getting something done.”

Then last week during a trip to China, Duterte said, “I announce my separation from the United States … both in military and economics also.”

After returning home from China last Friday, Duterte backed off a bit saying that he is not severing ties with the U.S. but only strengthening his ties with China.

Apparently, Duterte had second thoughts and retreated to a more realistic posture, saying, acccording to CNBC, “It is not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. It's in the best interest of my countrymen to maintain that relationship.”

However, it appears that it will take more than Duterte’s rash vulgarity to ruffle American travelers who may be interested in visiting the Philippines.

The Philippines are not a major tourism destination for Americans, with some tour operators offering custom travel arrangements to the island nation and a few offering scheduled group tours. In either category, tour operators are reporting no effect on their businesses in reaction to Duterte’s shoot-from-the-hip comments.

“Our clients interested in traveling to the Philippines in the future or those with current plans have made no comment to us either way regarding the current feelings of the Philippines’ president towards the United States,” said Richard Krieger, president of The Isramworld Portfolio of Brands. “It may be that if it wasn't for our own current electoral process, maybe there would be more of a reaction, but at the moment we have no feedback from clients.”

SITA World Tours, which offers three programs to the Philippines, has seen no waves from the controversial remarks of the Phillipines’ president.

“Ever since we have conducted joint cooperative efforts with the Philippines Department of Tourism here in California, we have seen the number of inquiries for this destination grow over the last few years,” said Laudie Hanou, vice president of the tours division of SITA World Tours. “We don't feel that this will markedly change due to the Philippines' president’s stance. The people that ask for this country are primarily educated and aware of political events. Our clients may also combine it with another Asian destination.”

Abercrombie & Kent, which is launching a new program to the Philippines, is unflinching.

Beginning in 2017, A&K will operate a 12-day trip called The Philippines: Islands of Paradise, as part of its Marco Polo series, which is the brand for the company’s most exotic, adventurous offerings.

“I don’t think [President Duterte’s remarks] will have any effect on anyone visiting,” said Phil Otterson, president of A&K USA. Duterte’s controversial actions within the country “are not occurring in places we are visiting,” said Otterson.

And even in the places where Duterte’s purges have taken place, the drug war is not having a widespread effect.

“I have a friend in Davos City, where a lot is going on,” said Otterson, “but he’s not affected either. These events have not affected tourism in a negative way.”

A&K’s itinerary includes Manila, Corregidor, Cebu Island, Mactan Island and Boracay.

The itinerary includes sightseeing by helicopter, exploration of World War II sites of particular interest to Americans, local dance and music performances, a cooking demonstration, snorkeling and a visit to a guitar factory.

It is not A&K’s first trip to the Philippines. The company includes the Philippines in a private jet trip.

In regard to questions from clients or prospective clients in the wake of President Duterte’s incendiary remarks, “We have not had any inquiries at all,” said Otterson. “We have bookings on all our departures, though they are not yet sold out. The first departure is Feb. 11.”

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