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The invitation stands: Come visit the Philippines

IN the last five years, the Philippines has been promoting its tourism industry with a slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” It has helped to increase tourist arrivals in the country, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said at the start of the new administration in June, 2016.

Last Independence Day, June 12, 2017, however, the Department of Tourism launched a new slogan “Experience the Philippines.” Some DoT officials possibly thought that with all the troubles in the Philippines at this time – the deaths linked to the campaign against drugs, the Resorts World fire, the fighting in Marawi City that prompted the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao – tourists might not respond to the “fun” slogan.

A new TV commercial on the new “experience” slogan featuring a blind Japanese tourist, however, was quickly criticized as being a copycat of South Africa’s tourist campaign. Both campaigns feature a blind visitor saying one does not need to see the sun or the islands or the people to experience the country’s radiance and vibrance.

Among many other critics, Sen. JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, said DoT had better stick to the old campaign line. The latest word from DoT is that it will continue to use “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” but will adopt “Experience the Philippines” as a supplementary slogan to encourage tourists to come, whatever they may have heard or read about the Philippines.

Malacañang is not accepting the notion that ongoing Philippine events are keeping tourists away. Despite a World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017 report that the Philippines is now the world’s 11th most dangerous country – up from No. 128 in 2015 – presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said last Thursday that tourist arrivals continue to increase steadily. There were 1.78 million visitors from January to March, 2017, he said, up from 1.6 million for the same period in 2016.

These may be uncertain times, especially with the continued violence in Mindanao, but we are glad to see our tourism officials carrying on with their development programs. They just need to be more discerning and more sensitive, lest a seemingly good idea like a blind tourist “seeing” beauty in our country turns out to be a copy of another country’s ongoing campaign. Better still, they might take Senator Ejercito’s advice to heart – that they try to use that which is “distinctly Filipino” in their campaign.

To the world’s tourists, the invitation stands: Come and experience the Philippines!