Is it More Fun in in the Philippines?
Before anything else, HAPPY 2012 everyone! I have just arrived from a wonderful trip in South Africa for the holidays, so I haven't really written anything since Christmas. It was also just today that I knew about the new tourism slogan of the Philippines, after checking my Facebook.
I was actually in shock when I saw the campaign for the first time because I didn't expect it. I thought, what was this tagline going around with all the weird images attached to it. I was actually confused at first, so I searched further and discovered the REAL slogan.
Now, I have been anticipating this slogan, given all the hype about it. The thing is, I had strong mixed feelings about it. First, the positives. I love how it DOES sum up who we are as a nation. It captures who we are in one 3-letter word. We are the most fun loving people in the world. And sometimes, this fun is unsolicited. We are just happy people because we want and seek to be happy. That's why Coke's Happiness campaign works.
And this effect is obviously taken into social media. The campaign has indeed grown on a lot of people. A lot of my friends on Facebook has been doing their own versions as well. This way, the DOT and BBDO has utilized the fun loving Filipino people to promote their country. Some actually weird wild with their versions, and even became offensive. However, there were more versions that were brilliant.
The campaign is an inspiring kick off to HOPEFULLY the government's true support for tourism. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has started a wildfire, but it is up to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to actually prevent this wildfire into turning into another disaster. I mean, what the hell is a slogan for, if a solo backpacker arrives in the Philippines not knowing how to go to his guesthouse. That isn't fun for sure.
True, it is more FUN to get lost in a deserted beach in the Philippines, but will be more fun to actually find my way to that beach? Or even get to that beach?
I support the DOT 100%. They have given a slogan that everyone is talking about. I didn't care about the alleged Swiss copy, or the fact that people are using the slogan to bash our country as well. However, to me, it's not a LONG TERM slogan. The rest of the world uses simple, sometimes uncreative slogans. And most describe the wonders of their country. Ours describe an experience. It's like saying, we have those too, but here it's better (more fun). But how do we sell an experience if people don't know what to expect in the first place?
While I am NOT AGAINST the FUN concept, I just think it's too limiting. It needs a lot of explaining as well. It's not that this slogan will explain everything. We have to do the explaining.
Here, we are assuming that the images attached to the witty remarks will spark foreigners to want to go to the Philippines. The logo itself doesn't speak FUN. It's a san serif font, that doesn't highlight FUN. It ends with the map of the country in a colorful banig pattern. Where's the fun there? It is simple and catchy to the eye, but I am against that map.
And if you think we are great in using witty lines, check out these from Incredible India.
I have spoken with a lot of foreigners while on my backpack trips, and I was surprised that some of them don't even know where the Philippines is. They say, it's the country above Indonesia. Fact is, most DO NOT KNOW anything about our country. I never thought some people still don't know about the Philippines in this day of age. We say we have a lot to offer, even a New Wonder of the World, and our country is WOW. But the foreigners don't know this.
I am a traveller, and I chose South Africa for my recent holiday, because I wanted to experience a safari, nature, and so much more. I don't even remember South Africa's tourism logo. They don't need one. Tanzania's slogan is even straight forward: The Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Serengeti. In this modern world, getting known in the tourism industry is really selling your best landmarks. Thailand, Italy, Japan and France have food as a landmark, so people go there to eat.
I go to South East Asia, and know about Thailand and Vietnam, which has almost the same geographic wonders as ours. In the end, these foreigners will choose over what they already know about and what one country promises them to experience.
When I travelled this year around Asia, I did an informal survey asking foreigners their most favorite South East Asian destination. Indonesia topped the poll. Thailand came next, then Malaysia. Not one mentioned the Philippines. Well, only 3 out of the roughly 20 respondents have actually been to the Philippines. All have been to Thailand. Most want to go to Indonesia and Vietnam this year. Probably because they all have already been to Thailand.
Ask yourself that question. Will you go to the Philippines because it is more fun? Or because it is more beautiful? Will you choose Italy over Germany because it is more fun in Germany, or because Italy is known to be more beautiful?
Of course, the experience of the Philippines has always been unforgettable for those who have taken that risk, and I say risk, quoting the exact responses of my fellow backpackers who I have asked the question, Will you go to the Philippines? The rest answered, if I have the time after visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
So, will our tourism slogan work? It will spark a lot of interest, considering we've invaded social media. But I do believe that the slogan will not appeal to foreigners, or actually compel them to go. We have the rice terraces that they can actually see in Thailand or Vietnam. We have the best beaches but they can settle for Thailand and Bali. We have the limestone cliffs, the gorgeous volcanos and rolling hills, that Indonesia also has. We may all agree it's FUN here because we do LOVE our country. It is our home. It is really more FUN in the Philippines.
But will this FUN concept make unknowing and ignorant foreigners go to the Philippines? We have a lot of OFWs already around the world, who religiously recite the Philippine tourism pitch to their employers and co-workers. Yet, still no change in arrival numbers. I still think the best method is word-of-mouth promotion, but the word must come from those foreigners who have loved our country - those sun drenched Russians who tell their friends back home how much FUN Boracay is.
Let me tell you this. I have MORE FUN in a country when I am able to access and ride public transport easily, find my way around, stay in value for money accommodations, savor delicious and cheap food and go on a tour without being ripped off by deceitful operators.
I experienced this in Southwest China. I was a foreigner. I spent a month backpacking. I have never been ripped off in a cab even if I didn't speak Chinese. I stayed in the cleanest and most interesting guesthouses for under P1,000 a night. The closest I have experienced this in the Philippines is in Siargao. Honest and sincere people were running the lovely island.
I honestly feel bad writing about this, but this is what I truly feel, after years of being passionate about our country's tourism potential. I think the DOT and BBDO became too excited and frantic even with the potential of the campaign for social media dominance, to trend worldwide. However, trends don't last.
Again, I do support the DOT whatever their slogan is. I do agree selling an EXPERIENCE is more applicable in this highly competitive market. However, the slogan entails a huge responsibility on US to promote the country. And when I refer to us, it's not US who are glued to their laptops all day chatting in Facebook, positing our versions of More Fun. They are the boat operators, taxi drivers, the police, the small souvenir shop owners, the delicacy makers, and even that brilliant little English speaking tour guide boy in Callao Caves. I bet they don't even know about the new slogan.
In the end, our tourism dream of 10M visitors by 2016 lie in their hands.