Miss Universe contestants to arrive next week

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — At least 88 beauties from around the world will be arriving next Friday for the much anticipated Miss Universe pageant, the tourism secretary said on Tuesday.

"Two or three will be arriving on (January) 7 but the bulk will be on the 13th... because on the 14th, there will already be an event," Department of Tourism (DoT) Sec. Wanda Teo told The Source.

The pageant is one of the major activities expected to boost attention and tourism to the Philippines, which last hosted Miss Universe in 1994.

The coronation ceremony will be held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on January 30 at 8:00 A.M. to coincide with an evening broadcast in New York. Although it is scheduled in 2017, the pageant covers 2016 since the reigning winner Pia Wurtzbach was crowned in 2015.

Pre-pageant activities, which begin on January 14, experienced minor itinerary changes as Albay was left out of the contestant destinations following Typhoon Nina, Teo said.

The first item on the itinerary is a photo shoot in the beach destination Boracay next Saturday. On January 15, the contestants will have another photo shoot in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, where a fashion show of the traditional Filipino terno by designer Albert Andrada will also be held.

On January 16, a Governors' Ball will be held in SMX Convention Center. The pageant's swimwear competition is set on January 17 in Cebu, which will be followed by another photoshoot in Baguio on January 18.

The group will split into three on January 19, with some traveling to Davao, and others to Iloilo and Batangas for their respective activities. A photoshoot at Pico de Loro will be held in the latter.

On January 20, the girls will attend a dinner hosted by Solar at Manila Hotel, followed by a grand fashion show at SMX and a food festival at Manila Hotel and a Women Empowerment Night over the next two days.

On January 23, the Miss Universe contestants will have a courtesy call to Malacañang Palace and a national gift auction. The National Costume Festival is scheduled for the day after.

From January 25 onwards, the girls will have run-throughs that will end with a dress rehearsal at SMX on January 29.

Steve Harvey and Ashley Graham are set to host this year's pageant. While the DoT has also recommended other local personalities, the organizers have yet to select a third host.

Teo said that the pageant, which will be broadcast live across "over 190 countries and territories," is guaranteed to aid tourism and help locals' livelihoods.

"We want all these places to be featured during the event, para naman lahat makikilala (so they will all be known)," said Teo.

"Tourist arrivals will increase, definitely. We'll be able to generate employment (because) we'll be hiring locals for the stage, preparations... catering," she added.

After Miss Universe

The pageant is just one item in the line-up of events for the DOT, which is setting 8 million tourists as its target for the coming year. This is 2 million more than its 2016 target.

Teo said that there is an estimated growth of 1 million tourists every year, but the estimate comes after Chinese tour operators supposedly told her that they can provide 3 million tourists. She added that they had asked if there was enough infrastructure to receive this influx.

"We've been encouraging investors to really build hotels, especially in the provinces," Teo said. "There are places na medyo mahirap lang (that are not so well-off), we are encouraging homestay."

Apart from China, she said that they are also expecting tourists from Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East.

The top three visitor markets of the Philippines are South Korea, the United States, and China according to DOT collated data from 2016.

Other activities are expected to boost tourism in 2017 include China-ASEAN activities in February, Madrid Fusion in April, a United Nations World Tourism Organization and a French music festival in June, and ASEAN 50 activities to be held throughout the year.

The agency has also taken on Wurtzbach and boxer-senator Manny Pacquiao as its ambassadors.

Teo said Pacquiao also wants to hold a boxing match in the country by November this year, another event that could generate income.

"He said, 'I would like to do a fight here in the Philippines,'" she recalled. "But I would have to raise 3 billion dollars."

Contrary to announcements of a DOT rebranding, Teo also reiterated that the department will be keeping its popular "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign.

"We'll just level it up. We'll answer the question 'Why is it more fun in the Philippines?'" Teo said. "It will focus on the hospitality of the Filipino people."