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Friday, October 20, 2017 28° Some clouds

Enticing tourists with the Philippines’ brighter side


by Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

Amid all the negativity lately that some fear might spell trouble for tourism here, there shall always be many reasons why it’s more fun in the Philippines.

Most of the time, whether wet or dry season, can be a perfect time for tourists to enjoy the idyllic beaches, exciting surf rides, and pristine reefs of our country which has some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines.

And for foreigners seeking unique adventures in our fiestas, street parades, religious processions, food festivals, live music shows, and many more, much joy can also be found in simple pleasures: From serene rides in kalesas and pedicabs, to the thrilling bursts of speed in tricycles and jeepneys.

Aside from our tourist spots imbued with natural beauty are the significant historical places like Intramuros, the walled city and original site of Manila, and Bagumbayan at Luneta Park – sacred ground consecrated by the blood of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal and other martyred patriots who led the Filipinos’ struggle for freedom from three centuries of Spanish colonialism.

And alongside places deemed national treasures that possess “outstanding historical, cultural, and artistic value” is world-renowned The Manila Hotel, the 105-year-old “Grand Dame of Asia” where I currently serve as its president.

But beyond the splendor of tourist spots and cultural sites, the Philippines is known for smiling Filipinos – reputed to be among the happiest people on earth – whose vaunted friendliness and hospitality, together with the ability to communicate in understandable English, give our country a distinct advantage over our Asian neighbors with similar sites.

The amazing beauty and heavenly bliss found in our tourist destinations, plus our warmth and congeniality as a people, are indeed major selling points we could always rely on in attracting foreign tourists to come over and experience life’s most pleasant and memorable adventures.

While some of us in the tourism industry might feel disheartened by recent bad news – particularly the Resorts World Manila tragedy and the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index report of the World Economic Forum which supposedly named the Philippines as the “11th most dangerous country” for tourists – let us not lose hope.

It’s sad that the Philippines’ ranking dropped to 79th place out of 136 economies, five notches down from last year, with the lowest rating obtained in safety and security (126th) and the highest in price competitiveness (22nd). Clearly, much ought to be done to improve the situation, especially in light of what a Sydney tourism specialist said: “People get good bang for their buck in the Philippines. But safety and security is now the number one factor in determining where tourists go. It used to be things like value for money, but that’s changed.”

Another dampener was the controversy over the “Sights” ad of the Department of Tourism. The social media frenzy is understandable as we Filipinos possess a “sense of ownership,” considering that the ad campaign is deemed to represent us and our country. But not all condemning the DOT ad, done in partnership with McCann Worldgroup Philippines, were critical of the plagiarism accusation. Some felt it was much worse.

Respected columnist Katrina Stuart Santiago put it this way: “There were many reasons to disapprove this concept from the beginning, including the fact that it’s an absolute lie that a blind tourist can travel alone to the Philippines and go around safely. Even locals are wary of traveling alone in this country. There is also nothing PWD-friendly about our streets, facilities, and infrastructure either.

To me, this ad was reckless endangerment of any and all tourists who might believe that one can travel around here blind.”

Despite the mess created by the controversial ad, I must say the DOT did the right thing in ending its partnership with McCann, instead of continuing to defend the advertising company and the ad. Perhaps DOT could now tap into the creativity of more Filipinos through a nationwide contest in coming up with fresh ideas for ad campaigns. Such could be easily done in this age of instant communications.

Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the DOT campaign to revive and maximize further the glowing endorsements given the Philippines in previous years by leading travel publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher.

In announcing the Philippines was the world’s 8th best country to visit in 2015, Lonely Planet said it made a list “compiled from hundreds of ideas submitted by Lonely Planet’s staff, authors, bloggers, travelers,  and tweeters which are then refined by a panel of in-house travel experts based on topicality, excitement, value and that special x-factor” with the top 10 chosen “for their merits and the unique experiences” they offer travelers.

And among our country’s unique experiences, Lonely Planet said, is “clinging to the back of a jeepney speeding through the crowded streets of Metro Manila,” aside from a variety of street festivities here.

“For travelers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world,” Condé Nast Traveler said in 2013. It also said international divers come for “the incredible underwater life, unspoiled coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles,  and dugongs.”

But apart from our beaches and diving spots, we could also focus on a more diversified range of tourism products and services – on medical or health and wellness, and other aspects our tourism industry could excel in. Many are quite sure that Secretary Wanda Teo’s leadership can do a lot of wonders for tourism despite the current “hiccups” that need to be addressed.

Email: finding.lina@yahoo.com

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  • Richard Burton

    Been all over the Phils, some good, some horrible what gets most non- Yanks is the way the Pinoy’s call all white men Joe and Ameircano, how they charge ten times more to whites than Pinoy’s, the pollution in the streets is vile, black poisonous smoke form those crappy Jeepney’s and other micky- mouse vehicles. Open sewers, beggars and thieves everywhere, Philippines is very much a third-world, grossly over- populated country where most Pinoy’s beg to get out of

    • Bronx

      Don’t know where you went, but where I went I was welcome by charming people.
      The village was orderly and safe. The kids were well behaved. The jails empty.
      I found the International Airport, Immigration and Customs no different than anywhere else in the world. The Domestic airport was no different than elsewhere. There are
      very modern areas in Manila, sights, and good food.

      I thought it was as you described until I was there.

    • Hein S

      TRUE. Garbage, Slums and Smoke all over.

  • Da Huzi

    Couldn’t get me drunk enough to go to the Philippines right now. It’s too unstable. I’ll wait for a new president with proper relations with my country.

    • Bronx

      FWIW– I’m an American of European descent. I was there in March. I felt safe
      in Manila, which I found much more modern and Western than I ever expected. I know I was safe in the Provence I visited, Batanes.

      The international relations between the US and The Philippines deteriorated but
      both sides are at fault. Duterte should never have treated President Obama as abysmally as he did. We for our part needed to be more sensitive to the dire need there for
      stopping the drug-meth-problem. No doubt some of the EJK are sad tragedies, but a million turned themselves in, that is a positive, and I learned of 1 who was about to be released from rehab, a changed person per his wife. Sometimes hard problems need
      harsh solution.

      Staying away is what ISIS, AS, and Maute want. Let’s not give them an economic
      victory be taking The Philippines off our list of places to visit.

      • Chris in Makati

        Good to hear that the anti-drug campaign has had success rehabilitating one person in its first year. Hopefully we’ll get two or three more cases like that over the next year.

        • Bronx

          Just telling you what I was personally told. Maybe it was isolated. I have no way of knowing.

          Dissuading visitors will only harm your country.

          That’s what the terrorist want. Don’t give in. There are clearly plenty of
          safe decent places worth visiting.

      • Da Huzi

        Well he was right about Obama but not America. I still think the US should stop remittances to the Philippines until we get better cooperation. If not, let China and Russia help them : ).

        Duterte was giving the tools to deal with China in the Philippine sea by the previous president. Yet, he chose not too. Why?? Because he personally favors communist over the US. Don’t keep biting the hand that feeds you and expect to keep getting feed.

        I am not against Duterte’s attack on the Meth problem. It was the only choice he had to take care of such a massive problem in a reasonable amount of time. However, I think it should of been a black ops operation where it did not invite ordinary citizens to kill each other.

        Nope…still not drunk enough.

        • Bronx

          I disagree with much of what you wrote before your last paragraph.

          • Da Huzi

            It’s ok to disagree. We will have to agree to disagree…that’s ok. Thank you for not attacking me personally for having a different opinion.

            But, please explain your disagreement. My mind is open to a different prospective. I don’t have to be right.

          • Bronx

            The US stopping remittances would harm very low income ordinary people. China and Russia won’t help. We would lose the good will of ordinary Filipinos which we now have.

            Cooperation is a two way street. Through a number of missteps which we (USA) still are making we have driven a close friend away.

            No, The Philippines was not given the tools to deal with China in The Philippines Sea. I’m an Obama fan but he did let The Philippines down. For the last 10 years now we should have worked incessantly to improve both our Navy and the Philippines Navy.

            Duterte is walking a tight rope and the rope is getting thinner now with
            the rebellion in Marawi. He made a very bad decision when he
            verbally attacked the US, but we sort of need to view it from whom it
            came and keep our US interests forefront.

            Our US interests do not
            include letting China walk allover the Western Philippines Sea, or
            letting the Islamic Radicals take over Mindanao.

            Our interests are best served by doing our best to assist the Philippines even when Duterte attempts to pull back.

            I think he just learned a hard lesson in Russia when they did nothing to assist The Philippines, and of course China is predatory.

  • DanteCatalino Garcia

    Our own people always go abroad for vacations. Our stage and big screen personalities do their thing in foreign lands. The likes of Kris Aquino and the rest of the snobs.

    • Bronx

      Many vacation in Batanes. It is a stretch to say your own people only go abroad for vacations.

      I am not from your country, but I am sure that there are other vacation spots your own people choose. Don’t put your countrymen down like that.

  • Hein S


    No amount of ads can help you if you do not Clean Up.