MANILA, Nov 11 (Mabuhay) – Philippines may have failed to reach its tourist arrival target but Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. believes the country can still recover, with the help of Filipinos.
Jimenez said while some Philippine spots have not been gaining international popularity as hoped, Filipino hospitality remains a strength.
“If you look at all the surveys, the Philippines as a destination didn’t rate as highly as you would have wanted it to. But if you did the survey on the Filipino, we were above so many other. In other words, the people have always been our strength,” Jimenez said in a forum at the Luneta Hotel in Manila.
With the campaign of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” Jimenez stressed that Filipinos’ hospitality and openness have enhanced the country’s image as a unique destination, aside from its awe-inspiring places.
“We may not be amazing. We may not be incredible. If nothing else, we are fun. The truism about the Filipinos’ willingness to allow visitors to participate in their culture, in their joy for life is a very significant advantage,” he said.
Jimenez also mentioned that South Korea is currently the largest tourism market of the Philippines with 1.2 million arrivals a year, followed by the United States, Japan, China, and Australia.
The secretary also attributed the missed foreign tourist arrival target to a series of natural disasters such as typhoon “Yolanda,” geopolitical issues, and unfortunate incidents such as the Manila hostage-taking crisis in 2010, where several tourists from Hong Kong died.
“The travel community in Hong Kong remained all the time very solidly behind the Philippines. And as soon as they had the chance to promote the Philippines again, they did and in a very big way. And that is why our Hong Kong arrivals are growing again very significantly,” Jimenez said.
However, Jimenez said the prospects will materialize only if Filipinos themselves would appreciate their own country, especially through attitude change which, he said, has been the thrust of the Aquino administration from the beginning.
“It is very easy to talk in terms of precisely creating overarching strategies that, first, will govern our role in aviation in this part of the world. And then of course the role of various agencies around it. But you cannot do that without the fundamental transformation in the attitude of people,” he said.
Jimenez said the challenge of keeping Philippine tourism globally competitive goes with the exercise of nation-building by getting the people behind the campaign.
“Fun in the Philippines was as much directed at the Filipino as it was to the foreign market. We had to be convinced ourselves, and this is the role we are meant to play,” Jimenez said. (MNS)