MANILA, Philippines --- On the first day of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue in Kuwait, locals flocked to the Philippine booth decorated with colorful design of the ''It's more fun in the Philippines'' campaign and other ethnic ornaments and accessories that are uniquely Filipino.
Kuwaitis seemed to have been enticed to visit the Philippine exhibit not by videos highlighting the country's sun-kissed beaches and pristine waters, the lush green highlands and delectable cuisine, but by the showcase of a Philippine-made product -- papaya whitening soap.
''Every time we have exhibits like this, one of the questions of the Kuwaitis about the Philippines is on papaya soaps and other natural skin care products. Then afterwards they will ask what is it like in the Philippines and other information regarding wellness and beauty,'' Remedios Alcazar, cultural officer of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, told the Manila Bulletin.
Riding on their curiosity to the country's natural beauty products, the tourism ambassadors here are using the ''papaya strategy'' as one of the tools to entice more Kuwaitis to visit the Philippines amid the slowdown of the global economy and stiff competition from other nations, particularly in the Southeast Asian region.
Records from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that at least 5,230 and 5,430 tourists from Kuwait had visited the country in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The highest number of arrival of Kuwaitis in the Philippines was registered in 2009 with 9,605.