Photo credit: Fraser Clements, Tourism NZ

More than 1.5 million Filipinos tuned in to watch an episode of a popular television programme showcasing Māori culture and Rotorua’s geothermal wonders.

The crew from award-winning documentary show I-Witness visited Rotorua in November 2017 to film the in-depth episode titled Biyaya ng Bulka (Blessing of the Volcano).

They were supported by Tourism New Zealand.

The episode was the first of a two-part series airing at prime time on Saturday evenings. It featured popular tourist attractions such as Te Puia Geothermal Valley and Hell’s Gate and has so far generated an estimated advertising value of $2.2 million.

The second episode was filmed in Taranaki, where the crew completed the Pouakai Crossing.

Tourism New Zealand’s Regional Manager for South and South East Asia, Steven Dixon, says that the organisation has seen positive growth in the number of visitor arrivals from the Philippines since it entered the market in 2016.

“Although the Philippines is still a relatively new market for us it is already generating strong results.

“In the year ending November 2017 23,424 Filipinos visited New Zealand, an increase of 18.2 percent on the previous year. Of these, 8320 were holiday visitors, an increase of 12.1 percent.

“Working with a high-performing broadcast such as I-Witness provides us with an opportunity to showcase New Zealand to a large audience to get more Filipinos dreaming of a New Zealand holiday.”

I-Witness is the Philippines’ longest running and most awarded television documentary programme. It has been around for 16 years and has won various major international awards — including two of the four prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards bestowed on the Philippines, with one awarded to host Kara David.

The programme also has a strong social media presence with 1.089 million followers on Facebook, and 901k subscribers on YouTube — where the episode has been viewed 352k times.

Since Tourism New Zealand entered the Philippines two years ago there has been a significant increase in air capacity between the two countries.

“We entered the market to coincide with the launch of Philippine Airlines’ service to Auckland via Cairns,” says Steven.

“Since then, Philippine Airlines has replaced this route with a three times a week direct service from Manila to Auckland, providing a 60 percent increase in seat capacity and reducing flight time by 2.5 hours.

“With New Zealand now more accessible from the Philippines than ever before I am confident that we will continue to see visitor numbers from the country increasing.”

In 2018-19 Tourism New Zealand will be increasing its presence in the Philippines through joint venture partnerships with travel agents, joint venture tactical marketing campaigns and broader public relations activity.