I began exploring the Philippines and sharing my experiences because I felt that the government is not actively promoting our beautiful country as it should be. I felt the need to contribute, hence The Island Explorer was born. I tried to pick up some of my past travels around the country and show everyone how much can be seen. And I am just focusing on islands, beaches and natural wonders. I'm not even touching much on festivals, cultural monuments and the like. I featured restaurants, resorts, hotels, tours and destinations that are deserving attention.
I expanded my blog to featuring my travels in South East Asia, which is more of a frustrating release after seeing how the tourism industries in our neighbors are flourishing. I remember hiking in China, and being asked by a group of European backpackers who were traveling the world: Where is the Philippines? Imagine, they didn't even know where it was. Like we were out of the map. And we were, to most of these travelers, since we have not made ourselves known.
A friend told me the reason why we stopped airing TVCs on the Philippines in CNN is because we were in debt with the news station. That was during the time of Gordon. I don't know if that was true. In any case, we weren't showing anything on TV, until the Take Me To the Philippines campaign with MTV. That was it. I was also told that the DOT was aggressive in campaigning in other countries, like Japan, Spain and France. As a result of the incapability to advertise on international TV because of budget constraints, they went out and joined several tourism conventions. Well, I guess sending a delegation to Europe and other parts of the world is cheaper than advertising.
I have been featuring how we are recognized in the internet. Tripadvisor ranked Boracay as the number 1 beach destination in Asia. That was a feat. Others followed, like CNN, that touted Marinduque as one of the emerging Asian hotspots. Of course, it was because of Bellaroca. Do you think we got these because of advertising? I don't think so. It's just because of one thing: the foreigners who took a risk to visit our country were amazed.
And I have seen their amazement. I had friends from other countries visit, all of them extended their stays. There are those who email me anonymously through my blog, asking for advice on backpacking Philippines. They share some bad experiences while traveling the country, especially how Filipinos gawk at them, or how difficult it is to travel around the country because of the lack of safe and comfortable transportation, or how ridiculously expensive our hotels are, given their standards.
However, they all end up saying that they will come back. No matter how much they had a difficult time, they tend to remember the best of times. I always advise them to visit Boracay last, so as to give the best final impression.
Now that the new tourism slogan is launched, and with everyone attacking it, I wonder where our tourism industry is truly headed. I have been a staunch believer that tourism dollars will solve our economic problems. Look at Thailand. Tourism dollars benefit our microentrepreneurs, our boat men, our tricycle drivers, our souvenir producers, our small restaurant owners in these tourist destinations. The bigwig resort and hotel groups also benefit of course. But when there is a stable tourism infrastructure, we are more marketable as for foreign investments. Retail will flourish as shopping is a must for travelers. Our malls will get more visitors. There will be more restaurants, there will be better modes of transportation. And these all because of a flourishing tourism industry.
I hope the current government understands the value of tourism. I heard that during GMA's term, tourism was not even in the top 10 list of priorities of the government. I think it should be in the top 5, along with agriculture, manufacturing and business process outsourcing. Having a new campaign was a bold move, a welcoming one. But the execution was flat ignorance, as Miriam said.
When I heard about Pilipinas Kay Ganda, I was speechless for a moment. I thought it was a joke. They explained the rationale behind the slogan, and I became furious. If you look at all my entries, and see the beautiful islands and beach destinations of our country, would you say, Pilipinas Kay Ganda?
WOW was way better. I admire that they wanted to be different from the rest of the slogans of the world, but still, poor execution. They compared it with Aloha of Hawaii. Aloha is understood by the rest of the world already. Kay Ganda isn't. They should have used Mabuhay.
So, like everyone, I am releasing my frustration. I might as well get back to writing more entries, as our country needs more people to share their experiences about the Philippines, than spend time and effort into making a slogan that is just plagiarized artwork.