Tourism matters

“It would be interesting if someone comes up with the answers. If only for us to fully appreciate what is being done right with our rebounding tourism industry.

In this tourism age, almost anything can be promoted to likely tourists, even the bizarre.

Take for instance the so-called “lung cleansing” trips organized by Chinese tourist agencies trying to convince smog-smothered Beijing residents “escape from the smog” excursions into places with pure air and blue skies.

Bizarre the promotion may be, it does give us thought on what might attract Chinese tourists to our country of pure air and blue skies. Hmm.

Still, we couldn’t care less about what possibly entices the Chinese tourist. The Chinese tourist is not yet an important customer of Philippine tourism. Recent touristy facts bear out the claim.

Who is our best customer then?

When the Department of Tourism boasted this week the country has already breached in the last five months its two million target in 2022 of international tourists visiting the country, it turns out our best customer is South Korean.

Of the recorded 2,002,304 international visitor arrivals from 1 January to 12 May 2023, South Koreans made up almost a quarter of the total number of visitors, with 487,502.

Americans came in second with 352,894, Australians with 102,494, Canadians with 98,593, and Japanese with 97,329.

As yet, there are no significant or sufficient explanations, not even from the DoT, as to why those top five nationalities went here or what attracted them to the Philippine tourism brand.

It would be interesting if someone comes up with the answers. If only for us to fully appreciate what is being done right with our rebounding tourism industry, which this government is keenly hoping to take advantage of through a five-year development blueprint.

Approved this week by Mr. Marcos Jr., the National Tourism Development Plan, says Tourism chief Christina Frasco, will “establish a Philippine tourism industry anchored on Filipino culture, heritage and identity with the goal of transforming the country into a tourism powerhouse.”

How that lofty mission vision gets translated on the ground is still a wait-and-see game, though Ms. Frasco says this would involve “building more quality roads” towards all tourism destinations, including even less known or emerging tourist spots.

The Department of Information Communications and Technology also promises to solve “connectivity” issues in major tourist spots so that a tourist can effortlessly Instagram or TikTok their selfies.

But, we’ll have to wait and see.

Nonetheless, such an ambitious tourism undertaking, which a news colleague of mine characterized as “low-hanging fruit” that the country hasn’t learned to pluck properly, allows some optimism that government is finally fully supportive of a crucial industry.

Lack of concerted and comprehensive government support for the tourism industry, which before the pandemic accounted for 12.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, has always been a sore issue.

At any rate, now that there’s seemingly a strategic vision in place, there are high hopes a major publicity campaign on Philippine tourist destinations finally translates into dollars.

In the past, publicity efforts for Philippine tourism, as one observer wryly notes, were not as far-reaching compared to Thailand or Malaysia.

Awareness of the country’s tourist destinations, in fact, is still comparably low, especially among Europeans.

This is why this early, all eyes focus on government plans on how it will actively promote the country’s touristy offerings.

With so much at stake, any promotional mishap will surely trigger backlash as what happened recently to the “we give our world the best” advertising campaign that many found as a schizophrenic branding exercise.

Launched in London, the ads featured Filipino-British nurse May Parsons with the words: “The nurse who gave the first Covid-19 vaccine. A Filipina. We give the world the best. The Philippines.”

Though the ads are being defended as “not solely a tourism campaign”, the ads do appear questionably haphazard and create unwarranted confusion. What exactly is being promoted — the country’s inherent attractions or Filipino migrant labor?”


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