The Philippines is a popular travel destination, attracting millions of visitors year-round to its beautiful beaches and natural wonders. But in promoting tourism, the Philippines has taken an emotional approach that is not directly related to physical attractions.
The tourism campaign slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” touches on the true image of the country ― its people and the fun they create, according to the Philippines Tourism Department Secretary Ramon Jimenez.
“It’s the fundamental truth about the Philippines. It’s about people and participation,” Jimenez said during an interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday. “Our first instinct is to turn every stranger into a friend and then we relax. That’s where the word ‘fun’ comes from,” he said while in Seoul to attend the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Asia Summit, Sept. 10-11.
|Ramon Jimenez, Philippines’ Tourism Secretary, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korean Herald)|
Launched last year, the promotional campaign aims to attract more than 5 million foreign visitors to the Southeast Asian country. The Philippines received around 3.4 million foreign visitors in 2010. Korean visitors are expected to reach 1.2 million this year, accounting for around 24 percent of the total foreign arrivals.
“Koreans are recognizing the quality vacation. The means that measure the quality is not in infrastructure in this case but, as I said, in terms of fun,” he said.
To drive the development of the tourism industry, which currently accounts for a little under 6 percent of GDP, the government has set a goal of reaching the 10 million mark in foreign tourist arrivals by 2016, the final year of its national tourism development plan.
The country plans to open eight more international airports by 2016 in addition to the existing airports in Manila, Clark Air Base, Cebu and Davao, and build clusters of tourism areas around the airports.
“I should stress that a lot of the developments are driven at the local level, not national level. It’s the excitement people feel on the ground that’s driving the tourism development,” he noted.
More hidden gems await to be discovered by tourists in the coming years such as Davao and Mindanao, perhaps more often in the news for conflicts with armed Muslim groups, communists and clan militias than as tourism destinations.
“Mindanao is known for beauty and warmth of the people. In Mindanao, you will realize it is the most beautiful place in the world,” he said.
Located near Davao, Mount Apo’s natural forest of some 8,000 “bonsai” trees, created when the volcano erupted, is expected to be a must-visit site as the region is under negotiation with UNESCO’s World Heritage commission to be declared as a heritage site. The 8-kilometer-long underground river in Palawan, a World Heritage Site, is a natural attraction to which only 900 people are admitted daily.
“Just like the underground river in Palawan, we hope to open these places to tourists soon,” he said.
By Lee Woo-young (email@example.com