The throngs of Koreans living in and visiting countries in various corners of the world isn't news, but where you'll find the greatest number of them may come as a surprise. More so than the United States, Japan or China, flights to and from the Philippines carry more Koreans than any other country.
No longer is the country a honeymoon destination. Now Koreans of all demographics are flocking to the archipelago in greater numbers than ever before. But the availability of information hasn't developed as quickly as tourism.
"We've been in charge of Air Philippines for 20 years, and when we started, there were about 500 Filipinos living in Korea and about 2,000 Koreans visited the Philippines every year," said Kim Ki-tae, the president of Philippine Airlines Korea. "With visitors increasing, people needed a place for information, and at first, there were a lot of scams and unfair deals for Koreans coming into the Philippines."
To meet the growing demand for information about the 7,107 islands, Philippine Airlines has begun an online portal called Onfill (onfill.com). Unlike most other travel websites, however, Onfill supplements its travel information with practical tips for those who are planning to stay in the Philippines for an extended period of time.
"There are already Korean websites that focus on world travel and travel sights specifically to one country sponsored by the nation's tourism agency, but there isn't a single-country portal that focuses not only on travel, but other genres as well," said Park Sang-yong, the Business Team manager of Onfill.
Take, for example, the growing number of college-age students who use the Philippines as a stepping stone in English education. Though they are not permanent residents, Onfill recognized the need for supplemental information for students whose need expand beyond general travel and education.
"Koreans go to the Philippines to spend money. When they go to study, they not only need to enroll in classes, but they also need lodging, food and entertainment," Kim said.
Another growing group of Koreans going into the Philippines are retirees who are attracted to both the climate and costs. The site, which was launched last October, has made its most immediate impact in the way Koreans purchase property in the Philippines.
"Many people purchasing homes in the Philippines now bypass all marketing and travel agencies and would rather do business through word-of-mouth and friends and family already in the Philippines," said Kim, who sees the direct relationship between the reputation of the Philippines as a nation and his business. "If people are scammed and purchase property at twice the market value, those people will soon understand what happened and the image of that country deteriorates and affects our airline service."
The highly interactive site features a separate section for travel, education and life in the Philippines, but the most unique idea is a page of one-line teasers which, once clicked, lead to a rollover description of a specific resort, restaurant, hotel or island, among many others.
Though no website will completely replace the time-tested approach of getting your boots on the ground and rubbing shoulders with the locals, Onfill offers a diverse body of information for individuals of all demographics traveling to the Philippines, whether for a short trip or the rest of their life.