December 1, 2023

There should not be a shortage of reasons to love the Philippines, this Southeast Asian country that had the sobriquet “Pearl of the Orient Seas” historically.
It is no secret this archipelago consisting of more than 7,000 islands had all what it takes to draw in foreigners, one contingent even stayed for more than 300 years, and which Filipinos fought and died for.
But while the Department of Tourism under this administration is on track when it recently and aptly adopted the brand “Love the Philippines” as the country’s guidepost for tourism promotion and pandemic recovery efforts, the plan was immediately doused by a promotional video that used non-original footage clips showing tourist sites of other countries.
While the advertising agency hired by the DOT for the P49-million promotional project issued a public apology and whose services was terminated after the blunder that caught the attention of international media, the DOT has to work harder to rise from the embarrassment which without a doubt has tainted the image of the country.
It is unfortunate that just as the campaign is taking off, we already need to do damage control to regain the interest of the tourist market, volatile as it is. There is also a need to rebuild the confidence of the local tourism stakeholders, which for us should be taken as one of the main drivers of this campaign, on whether they could count on the government to help in saving the industry and in effectively promoting the country’s tourism.
The slogan fiasco indeed may be considered a blow to a promising new tourism campaign, after we tried convincing the world that “It’s more fun in the Philippines” and enticed with “Wow, Philippines” in previous administrations.
However, we believe this setback should not be used as a yardstick of the country’s ability to continue being popular and loved by tourists. Embarrassing as it was, it will not change the fact the Philippines is beautiful in and out – from its sands, mountains, landscapes, underwater, food, and the world renowned Filipino warmth no other country can duplicate.
We just need to prioritize on leveling up the experience that tourists would have for them to love and keep coming back to our country.
First, the tourism campaign should be supported by moves on improving our country’s doors to the world. The government should seriously invest on and effect a total overhaul of our ports, especially the main airports, not only in terms of modern facilities but more urgently on its flight operations and systems for passengers’ convenience. Let us all work on shedding the “worst airport in the world” tag off.
Even without a tourism slogan, we can also start by appreciating the beauty of our own country and become its genuine ambassadors to every visitor. Let us invest on, appreciate, and promote our own, so that we can make our visitors truly experience what Filipino brand of warmth is, over and above the aesthetics, which are already given but should equally be preserved or enhanced by how its people treat those who come to admire our country.
We believe the DOT is still on the right track.When it launched the grand tourism campaign, it mentioned among other plans tapping all Filipinos to be the Philippines’ ambassadors and intensifying promotion of all its tourism communities and regions by inviting the public not only to visit but to experience the localities’ unique traditions and endearing way of life.
As it has been said, love cannot be forced. We can only put our best foot forward. The best tourism promotion strategy we can think of is for stakeholders led by the government to put their acts together – including avoiding unnecessary and costly lapses in judgment. Though it’s true we remain struggling to keep up with our Asian neighbors in terms of claiming a huge bite of the tourism pie to boost our economy, we should not only be concerned about profits and economic opportunities.We need to disprove the claim of many of Filipinos themselves that “napakahirap mahalin ang Pilipinas.”
We need to genuinely love our own first before we can invite the world to “love the Philippines.”