Sunday, June 22, 2008


Manila, Once Overlooked by the Jetset, Gets Groovy

MANILA - Manila is back on the fast track as a travel destination, with the Saturday 14 June launch in Cubao of the Groovy Manila Map'n'Guide, the latest publication from one of South East Asia's hippest publishers, Groovy Map, who have achieved a cult following amongst business and weekend city travelers for their laminated, pocked-size map-guides offering “Fun Mapped Out” in witty prose and simplified mapping.

The disco-themed party started with a tour led by one of Manila’s best known cultural tourism hosts, Carlos Celdran, the irreverent walking tour guide whose “Living La Vida Imelda” tour earned him gold-plated credentials to manage the launch party for the Bangkok-based company.

The party started when a private train carriage scooped up revelers at Ayala Station and whisked the thumping party, playing disco-themed Filipino music, to a former shoe market in Cubao, renamed Cubao Expo. Lined with performance and street artists, the area was converted to a beatnik zone, with revelers consuming complimentary drinks till long after midnight at destination venue Mogwai Cinema and Bar.

The Groovy Manila Map 'n' Guide Cover

Since its first publication of the ever-popular “Groovy Bangkok Map’n’ Guide” back in 1996, this Bangkok-based publisher has expanded titles to cover major cities as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney and beach destinations such as Bali and Phuket. It is now Manila’s turn to hit the Groovy Map radar.

Aaron Frankel, Founder of Groovy Map, celebrates with Carlos Celdran, famous walking tour guide and organizer of the event, the successful launch of their latest travel product, the Groovy Manila Map'n'Guide, aimed at business and weekend city travelers.

Said Aaron Frankel, MD and Founder of Groovy Map, who flew in for the launch, "Manila is a booming city, so it's time to put it ‘on the map’ and show travelers why it really is groovy."

Adds, Carlos Celdran, “the Philippines started Asia on the travel wish list by hosting the Miss Universe Pageant in 1974 and building Asia’s first Convention Center, but we stumbled soon after, and are only now starting to pick up where we left off, twenty years ago.”

Groovy Manila Map 'n' Guide Detail.

Groovy Map aims to change the perception of Manila too.

The city offers plenty of things to do and see, many of which are covered by the new Groovy Manila Map’n’ Guide. From where to go for a pampering massage to how to order a merienda, from dining in a Dickensian mansion to drinking in art-houses with dotcom savvy beatniks, Groovy Manila has it covered. “Finally this city is getting the attention it deserves as a groovy hot- spot” says Frankel “There’s a lot more to Manila than meets the eye.”

The bestselling Groovy Maps are marketed as an executive brief to a city, and are an attractive pocket-sized folded map, with one side offering witty and insightful tips on the best dining, bars, clubs, and shopping areas to hit, and the other, simplified and color-coded maps to the city. The slick, laminated product promises “everything you need to get the most of a city in a short time,” and if reviews are anything to go by, the map seems to deliver with an average 5-star rating on and plenty of fan mail on its own website,

Frankel expects brisk sales in the Philippines and predicts the map will soon outsell the home market in Thailand due to the penetration rate of English amongst the population, and the boom in tourism.

Travel is on an upsurge in the Philippines, with visitor arrivals for January to April 2008 jumping 7.5% over last year’s volume, with visitors from the USA, Korea, Japan, and Australia accounting respectively for 18.5%, 17.9%. 11.5% and 5% of the foreign visitor market, and arrivals from many European countries jumping by double digit rates. Adding to the domestic equation, an estimated 33 million Filipinos make 2 or more domestic trips, and 2.7* million Filipinos travel overseas, nearly equal to the 3 million inbound visitors.

This is clearly a growth market in a country with a mixed cultural heritage, interesting historical roots and an abundance of natural attractions Often overlooked by other rival SE Asian cities, Manila is an inexpensive travel destination where almost 80% of the 67 million Filipinos are English speakers, making it a user-friendly market for Western visitors.

Positioning the Philippines as an adventure destination has begun to bear fruits, showing the ability of the Philippines to attract tourists for second and third trips, a crucial element to build upon inter-regional visitors. For instance, Thailand, which is pushing 14.5 million visitors per year is the envy of other nations for achieving a return rate of 51%, meaning 1 of 2 visitors will make another trip to Thailand in the future. However, with growth only 4.65% last year, Thailand is stumbling and the Philippines might pick up the slack with lower priced accommodation and more value-for-money beach destinations.

Good things lie ahead for Philippines tourism, and getting recognized by the jet-set only foreshadows groovy growth ahead.

The maps are being distributed by United Tourism Promotions, the publishers, of the E-Z brand of maps and atlas’, and the maps are already available in National Bookstores and soon will be distributed nationwide. Carlos Celdran said he will offer them to those taking his tours as well.

Contacts For Press/Interested Parties:
Niki Thongborisute at or mobile +668-1649-6684
Aaron Frankel at or mobile +668-1612-9663
Any Groovy Maps gladly sent for review
Larger photographs available on request –300dpi and up to A4 size
Carlos Celdran: +63 (2) 484 4945, Mobile +63 (917) 8861080

UTP Distributors: Contact Lorena, UTP, Angeles City Headquarters: 16-14 Marlim Avenue, Diamond Subdivision, Balibago, Angeles City, Pampanga, 2009, Tel: (+63)(045) 322-8767 , +63045625-7708; Tel/Fax: (+63)(045) 625-7708