Last June 12, 2010, I spent my weekend in Israel with Minerva and Daisy Beth and hundreds of Filipino caregivers in Israel enjoying a fun weekend trip, riding in a comfortable tourist coach bus and seeing Israel’s tourist sites.
I estimated that all the Filipino caregivers that weekend must have spent $80,000 to $100,000 US dollars in bus travel, hotel costs, meals and souvenirs, perhaps even more. Filipino workers in the diaspora clearly have money to spend.
Who said that Filipino contract workers in the diaspora are broke and don’t have any expendable income? Think again! I think the Filipino workers in the diaspora are an untapped market as consumers and as potential donors to help back in the Philippines.
That weekend coincided with the Philippine Independence Day celebration and that many Filipino caregivers had a rare treat of having two days off in a row. So many of them planned special outings and trips that weekend. So I joined Minnie and her friends excited to go out-of-town and to enjoy the sights of Israel. I thought we were going on a small excursion with a bunch of friends. I was wrong! I saw at least five tour buses parked in front of Levinsky Park, a park in Tel Aviv where many Filipino caregivers congregate. I heard that there were several more trips being planned for the next two days as well.
About 50 excited Filipino caregivers squeezed inside our tour bus to capacity. We rode on the bus for seven hours one way. We enjoyed floating on the Dead Sea and watching tropical fish and dolphins in the resort town of Eilat, overlooking the Red Sea near Egypt. Some of them even ventured even further to see the historical sites in Palestine and in the Golan Heights.
On the way back, we stopped by at an outlet store of Dead sea minerals and health products. I thought many of them would just do window shopping. Think again! We spent at least one hour at the outlet store as many Filipino caregivers stocked up and enjoyed the beauty products on sale.
My stereotype of overseas Filipino workers were shattered. The Filipino workers in the diaspora workers are not broke. They have expendable income to spend on weekend trips and souvenirs.
These overseas workers are also an untapped market as consumers. Many of the trips in Israel that weekend were self-organized. Travel agencies and other businesses should pay more attention to them. I believe many businesses in Israel are starting to do so. The Tel Aviv bus terminal is full of grocery stores, clothing stores, cell phone kiosks and many small shops that cater to them.
More importantly, these Filipino caregivers have expendable income to give as potential donors for development projects in the Philippines.