Friday, November 04, 2005

Philippine Tourism, what a joke


I don’t want to be a hypocrite or someone donning on rose colored glasses, so I will have to be honest, and I really hate to say this but... the Philippine Tourism is a BIG JOKE.

I don’t see anything that I can be proud of to tilt that dusty, cobwebbed and fossilized patriotic hat. All I hear in the international travel forums are grievances and dissatisfaction about how inept tourism is handled in the country, which upon careful introspection are actually very valid.

Serene Malapascua Island in Cebu, a perfect Lovers Place. Foto taken by Dutched Pinay.


I would like to believe that our government officials are capable. I am sure many of them have graduated with citations and honors. Some have probably adorned their offices with their doctorate diplomas, earned from prestigious universities abroad. But like I always say, burn that diploma and enlist on the ride to educational forgetfulness if the skills are not used and put in action.

Okay, for a moment, I may be quite harsh there…

So, let’s say we have incredible minds behind our program, is it then, maybe a budget problem? How much actually did the government spent on tourism? For an economy that has dwindled, no dear it has not stagnated; isn’t it just right and wise to use tourism as a regaining strategy?

Why are the tourists not coming in the numbers that we wanted? And please, hell no. Returning Filipinos [balikbayans], OCW’s [Overseas Contract Workers], and Foreigners married to Filipinos DOES NOT COUNT ON THE TOURIST TALLY BOARD!

What is amiss?

I don’t have all the answers, I am not an encyclopedia, I am not Einstein and Google, nor I have a PhD in Tourism, but these are some of the things that I can surmise as an outside thinking party, as a traveler and tourist, as a Filipino and as a critic.

SAFETY MEASURES

Tourists and travelers always look for safety when traveling. This is universal. Why do we think these embassy staffs quickly sends out a travel warning to its citizens when a bomb explodes, say in Zamboanga [south of the Philippines]? A little ache in your pinky can be felt in your whole body.

The rugged beauty of the breathtaking Taal Volcano. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


Where are the ought to be foreign or tourist police? In Thailand and even in Greece, which are countries with economies that heavily depends on tourism; they have created this special task force in the likes of foreign/tourist polices to protect its customers [the travelers] that contribute to their hopefully growing GDP. It is just necessary!

Problems such as, “That drunken tricycle driver tried to rip me off!” or “Someone stole my camera!” or this “An underage prostitute is harassing me in my hotel.” are to be dealt with by none other than the foreign/tourist police.

Their presence does not only bring safety but also the needed consumer confidence and correct international image to our ailing tourism industry, at least if they don’t start bribing, which incidentally is another big problem.

INFORMATION: Philippine Tourism Website

I have stopped pointing people to use that WOW Philippines and Philippine Tourism websites for it lacks the quintessence of what Philippine travel is. Why do I see these rubbish texts and promos of 5 star hotels and resorts? Yes, H-O-T-E-L-S and R-E-S-O-R-T-S!!! My god, I just have to close my eyes there for a minute because my brains are about to explode.

Why is our government promoting a hotel or resort instead of the REAL product – the amazing Banaue Rice Terraces, the zestful Hot Springs, and the pulchritudinous Islands and Beaches? Is this some sort of economic conspiracy piloted by key players on top? Pray, tell me, why promote a place to stay when there is supposedly a great reason why people are going to stay in that place you are promoting?


The prices are also laughably expensive. These people I am sure will drop their mouths wide open when they see how much a 5 day holiday package to the beaches of Spain costs. Give us a break!

Please, do your jobs and hit up the main thing. Develop the product, and not the by and sub products. Once the product is truly developed and I may have to add, preserved, then eventually hotels and other businesses will follow. And let me say this again, the prices are very embarrassing to tourists who have traveled cheaply to places that were equally beautiful but better organized [even western countries such as the South of Europe].


INFORMATION: Philippine Tourism Offices

Doesn’t everyone know that there is a Philippine Tourism Office in every international airport in the Philippines? But sadly, they are not there to disseminate travel information to tourists nor are they capable of answering any tourism related information. Their main task is to leech on Filipinos traveling abroad.

The beautiful tropical paradise of Boracay. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


The travel tax policy is pure hogwash and is just a one big superfluous money making machine. Question: How many Filipino citizens are traveling abroad every year? Answer: Millions and millions and growing since everybody seem to want out! I don’t think the salaries of these people manning the Philippine Tourism booth in the airports would even take .0001% of the net income from these travel taxes, so where did the money go?

Really, wouldn’t it be best if there are ready pamphlets in the airport about “What to do in the Philippines...”, “Where to go in the Philippines...” and “How to get there...” sort of information waiting on our fingertips? And please, leave out the hotel and resort garbage. The travel enterprises can pretty much do the jobs themselves.

INFRASTRUCTURE BABY

A fact, we have gorgeous beaches, incredible scenery, hospitable people, WARM very ideal climate, enough what a tourist wants but getting there is a pain in the ass.

The geographic location of the Philippines is already a disadvantage because of its apart and nicely tucked away seclusion position from the rest of mainland South East Asia, more so it is ridiculously tasking when you finally get into the country looking for that ride to your final destination.

Filipinos should understand that foreigners who are experienced travelers do not think that it’s charming to be harassed. They also want to get the value of their money, not according to their western standard of living, but according to the host country’s standard of living. They want to move about independently without someone trailing their behinds offering them a taxi ride that costs triple the local flag down price. What is that, legal highway robbery?

The Jeepney, the king of the road and the Filipino daredevils on top of it. Foto taken by the Dutchman inside the van.


Where are the public buses; that could have conveniently picked up passengers in assigned pick up locations en route to Manila international airport? Why didn’t they prioritize the MRT and LRT projects going to the airport? In Thailand, you can easily board on a cheap bus [with A/C and without] from the airport to the main city. In KL, there is this metro that gets in straight to the airport. Why can the Philippines not have these too? And when?

And do I have to waste another line about why the international airport is still living in the 1960’s and why the new one is not yet opened because some hot air balloon sized ego’s are guarding the gates [same case as that SRP highway conflict in Cebu]? Why does it take them so much time, like years, to settle this childish quarrel?

I went on a business trip last 2004 in Manila with my Dutch colleague. I felt humiliated when we stepped out into NAIA [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] because my Dutch colleague was bowled over. His first Philippine shock was when the trolley wheels didn’t move. They got stuck because they were dilapidated. I didn’t know how to answer him when he asked me why the airport was not impressive and that it reeks with age.

Okay let’s move on to the roads. I hope all the potholes have been covered by now because I seem to play the hit and miss game when driving in EDSA before. The roads outside Metro Manila, in other cities and provinces are yes now cemented but they are only good for two lanes, and you can already see houses being built a meter away, which could pose as a problem later when these roads need expansion. How should I say this, short term urban planning? Ah, tell me about that, Manila and Cebu are still a mess!

PRICE and MARKETING BLAH

A reminder… branding, packaging, promotions, public relations, should be pointed to the product and not some 5 star hotel or resort. That to me is the most bollocks of all tourism marketing I have ever seen. Where have they learned this? Is there some, what we call cut or commission, in there?

There were some adverts awhile back in CNN, but the material to support it was lacking because of the obvious reasons stated here. But then… why and just CNN? And why did it stop? Where is the aggressive I will win mentality? Do these people understand W-H-O their target markets are? Do these people really know W-H-O the travelers are? OK, there are now more Koreans, Japanese, and Taiwanese tourists coming in, but is this just it and should we shout hurrah? Another question: Will this sustain tourism? How about reaching the other side of the world?


I have heard that the Philippines have the lowest performing Tourism budget in Asia. No wonder majority of the tourists have flocked to other Asian countries.

They need to profile who are these tourists traveling in South East Asia. Check their demographics. I am pretty sure they will find out that there are different kinds of travelers other than the ones who are stupid [okay they might be rich like Bill Gates] to book a holiday in a 5 star hotel and resort but missing the real shiznit.

Ripe Philippine bananas for you and me. Foto taken by the Dutchman.


Business Travelers, are travelers who are not spending from their pockets but on company expense, hence the 5 star hotel; Family Travelers, do not literally take 5 star accommodations, I mean they aren’t stupid?; Couples and Independent Travelers, if they are in honeymoon, maybe, if not then I don’t think these people would also like paying an expensive room when they can get a price somewhere for ¼ of the price?; The Budget Travelers, are keen on price and getting their money’s worth; and Backpackers, who, even though are the least spenders, could probably pull in money for our economy. In fact the locals can benefit from them immensely, just like in Thailand and Indonesia.

They have one thing in common though [except the Business Traveler], that is to see the sights of the Philippines and not because they want to bask and experience in a 5 star hotel and resort accommodation. Price is the key. These visitors are surely not throwing their money recklessly just because they are tourists. But what do I hear from seasoned travelers? “Philippines is expensive.


In Holland, I don’t even get much feedback about the Philippines. Its like, “Where in Asia is that?” The Dutchman previously had to sometimes bite his tongue when he is traveling to the Philippines to visit me before because other cheese heads here will think that he is a sex tourist! *major shock* And his first impression, “Wow, it is damn expensive here.” [comparing to South East Asian countries]. There you go...

S-I-G-H... Anyway,

I’d like to hear the Philippine Tourism beefing up their marketing budget, airing adverts in countries that meet the profile travelers. There has got to be some awareness. This is important because this means the target market have the means, time and culture for traveling. Like here in Europe, people travel on average 2x a year outside. Dutchman and I travel more than that.

I’d like to hear about how they preserved Boracay and jailed those dynamite user fishermen [and well offer them alternative livelihood please], and not just fine Greenpeace because it was reckless enough to hit its boat in the coral reefs. Well that was foolish of Greenpeace. I now doubt if I can trust their mission on this planet earth. *Snicker*

I’d like to hear about the beautiful mountains up in the Cordilleras and the improved zigzagged roads with sturdy bridges, and that tourists can always safely run into a foreign/tourist police and not some kidnappers or terrorists.

I’d like to hear about the exquisite islands, its amazing dive points, etcetera, and how easy it is to get there without locals profiling tourists as millionaire carrot Joe’s, thus potential victims. If these foreigners are so rich, they would have traveled in style, say come swooshing in a private jet plane or splashing in that 25 meter private yacht complete with an experienced crew.

I’d like to hear tourists saying that the Philippines are not anymore a hidden gem in Asia and that it is not anymore expensive. And I don’t buy that bullshit of “We don’t want the Philippines to be like Thailand raped by tourists.”. Trust me, WE BADLY NEED THAT MONEY.

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