JR Lopez Gonzales 9:27 AM 1
I have to manifest this first before starting off with this article: I believe that tourism is the most important and has the strongest potential in actually driving the economy.
It is true that there a lot of things that make our country stand out from the other countries. Well, we speak better English, we are the brand of Asians without the usual uptightness and shyness, and we are a grinning people.
Our uniqueness is further embodied in the slogans WOW! Philippines, Pilipinas Kay Ganda, and the more recent one, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”. The Department of Tourism devised this slogan simply but it actually clicked. It was wittily composed where you’d thought it says one thing but actually means another. And this refers to a certain unique Philippine feature or trait.
But despite these efforts, a more careful look at the statistics on Southeast Asian Countries’ International Tourist Arrivals reveal that our country actually doesn’t stand at par with our counterparts in the region.
My manifestation in the prelude of this article apparently implies that we have the potential in the tourism industry. Well, let me tell you why: tourism is labor intensive (both in human capital and natural capital) yet we have the natural resources, beaches, mountains, and historical sites. We have everything that it takes to maintain the tourism industry and actually develop it.
But why are we still behind in the numbers game of international tourism?
In the recent headlines, there was an American who made an ‘infamous’ video skit on his personal reasons why he dislike the Philippines. Because of this, there came a huge wave of Filipino netizens were infuriated on his rather opinionated skit (I admired the script, by the way).
But before we get angry at the things we feel that seem much like a bashing to our culture, I believe that anyhow, it is important for us not to bark on the wrong tree but in fact look that there is an ample basis on his contentions.
In most of my travels around the country, these are some noteworthy problems I found that may be the same with what you also may have experienced and observed. First, our people seem to have a culture that exploits the strangers and tourists instead of helping them. There's at least a large minority of people in the tourism industry which exploits tourists. We take advantage of them. Secondly, we lack physical infrastructure. Our terminals, ports, and airports are not up to par. It clearly affects our reputation and did I mention that NAIA is ‘formerly’ the worst airport in the world? And lastly, the domestic peace and security issues we have.
How can it be more fun if you lose your bucks to an overpriced taxi fee? Or can’t find a decent toilet with a tissue paper inside them? Or maybe lose your wallet thanks to a fast sprinting snatcher? All the badrep we get boomerangs on us, these tourists won't come back anymore after bad experiences they’ve had here. They'd disparage us because of their sad experiences.
The new DOT slogan may have become both a ‘Twitter trending topic’ and a Facebook meme but I say that it is not enough. These slogans don’t even have continuity. We frequently change our slogans not like with that of the catchy Malaysian or Thai taglines.
I believe that before talking about having ‘more fun’ here, we first have to make sure we stick to the assurances of those catchy words. A slogan would not be enough to attract our foreign friends and it has got to be followed up with absolute commitment. We have to make sure that our products and services live up to our slogan’s promises and only then can we truly say that it is indeed more fun here.