Seriously, when it comes to a concerted focused and coherent, national Tourism Promotion Program, many are asking what, where, when and how?
For example at the outset, the promotion and progress of tourism at Apo Island was not initiated by government; it was first started by an enterprising Filipina married to a Swiss national who had a vision, and entrepreneurial spirit. They promoted their beach resort by giving a customer who can bring 10 clients, with free accommodation and meals, through the internet, mostly focused to attract Europeans. After a few, many resorts flourished, and now the Apo Island dive site is known the world over.
Tourism is targeted at people who have disposable incomes to travel for pleasure, and spend for leisure purposes. Naturally, the buzz word is “rest and relaxation”, and this target market is very conscious of getting value for their money, and necessarily, they come from our richer Asian neighbors and affluent Americans, Europeans, and the like.
Some people in government are not in touch with reality because they only target foreigners, when the local and overseas Filipinos form a significant tourism market sector.
In fact, if Filipinos are encouraged to know and explore their own country, this would support our local tourist industry.
Filipinos should patronize our own local attractions. Many people think it is not even about concocting out of the world festivals which have no historical background, but a mere creation of overactive imaginations.
Tourist travel is all about enjoying and relaxing from start to finish, from departures to arrivals at airports, seaports, bus terminals, and train stations.
It is not about slogans and catch phrases like selling cosmetics.
Have you experienced travel by boat from Dumaguete to Dipolog City lately? Did you consider the experience totally pleasurable, enjoyable, and relaxing? Probably not! Did you have to go to the bathroom while in the pier? How was that? Did your boat arrive on time? Was your accommodation at the boat comfortable and cozy? Probably not. Did you experience any inconvenience or irritating mundane concerns like having to sit for four hours or the whole way, or having seen people lying down on the floor? Did you smell the scent of petroleum from your seat? Were the vessel personnel professional, hospitable, and caring? Were there facilities for decent and reasonable meals?
When you arrived at your destination, did you feel welcome and overwhelmed by the sense of hospitality and the projection of a pleasurable stay – access to transfer vehicles, worry free baggage assistance, and clean arrival areas?
As a local person, and for the longest time, when travelling, I refuse to be annoyed by these mundane concerns, but mind you, a tourist may not be as tolerant.
Tourism to our Asian neighbors like Thailand is serious business; they invested in making sure that travel is pleasurable.
Filipinos should improve its tourism infrastructure, practices, and procedures, as no amount of slogans and catch phrases can cover up for such inadequacies.
How can you improve tourist volume if those who come here have to worry about the efficiency, reliability, and safety of our tourism infrastructure?
Take note, Bohol has a coherent and efficient provincial tour which can be booked with ease.
More importantly, on the national level, with the death of Hongkong tourists and the international publicity of the Maguindanao murder of 58 people, most of whom were journalists – the country has a black eye, big time.
It cannot be helped, the Filipinos have to overcome more than just bad press – it is the reality that most travels to local destinations are not pleasurable; they are more likely some episode of The Survivor.
A positive step forward was the withdrawal of the Pilipinas, kay Ganda, with a whisper of plagiarism on top of being so-so, major-major palpak!
Rather than spend on expensive launching of plebeian slogans (P4 million, focus should be made on making travel to local destinations pleasurable, hassle-free, worth the value of every penny spent!