Why the Philippines attracts less tourists

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2012 01:07 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2012 04:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines – “I told you so.”

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. made this statement when asked about people who used to doubt the effectiveness of his agency’s newest campaign.

From only three, there are now thousands of “It’s more fun in the Philippines” posters created by Internet users across the globe, giving the Department of Tourism enough promotional material for the next 25 years, should the slogan last that long.

Jimenez said results can already be felt as early as Holy Week, with all airport gates occupied with flights to local destinations, something that has never happened before.

“It was unbelievable. The energy comes from the fact that there is a genuine interest in seeing the Philippines,” he said in an interview on ANC’s “Headstart” on Wednesday.

So what made the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan work?

Jimenez said the secret is making it “simple,” “easy to remember,” and “closest to the truth.”

“The moment you start to get cute and complex, it starts to sound manufactured. ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ is not a manufactured slogan in the conventional sense,” he explained.

“The meaning of ‘fun’ communicates at certain levels. Fun is not possible without participation. And that’s probably the most apt description of tourism in the Philippines. We are a participative culture. You cannot remain a stranger in the Philippines for more than 24 hours.

“The objective is to make sure that the product is close to the Filipino people. That they understood it to be true, and that they embraced it. We gave them the ball, and they ran away with it.”

Jimenez stressed that contrary to what most people believe, tourism is not just about infrastructure and scenic destinations, but also about “people and the travel experience.”

And that, he said, is what inspired the country’s newest tourism slogan.

“[The new slogan] has signaled to everyone that you are part of this. We weren’t kidding. Tourism is the people’s business. It’s not a machine that you build, push a button, and it works,” he explained.

“I keep telling people it’s not about what you see. That’s only half of it. It’s who you’re with when you see it. The travel experience matters. People always enjoy themselves when they’re with family, friends. The Philippines is one giant welcoming family, so you can imagine that multiplied several ways.”

Small voice

Despite the initial success of the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan, Jimenez said that there is still plenty of work to be done.

The catchy line may have brought thousands of posters to life, but the country has yet to catch up to its Asian neighbors when it comes to tourist arrivals.

Jimenez believes that the main problem is not on infrastructure or the country’s so-called negative image, but the Philippines’ “small voice” compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

“We have to debunk this notion that they don’t come to the Philippines because they’re afraid of our horrible image. The primary reason why we lack tourist traffic is plain and simple – ignorance of our offer. You can walk into a travel agency in Europe and not find a single brochure about the Philippines,” he said.

“Our voice is so much smaller than our neighbors, so we should not be surprised if our negative image surpasses our good one.”

Realizing this, Jimenez said the DOT and other government agencies are working double time to make sure that foreigners know what the Philippines has to offer.

He said that a good first step was the Berlin travel fair, where the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan made its international debut.

Jimenez also cited the efforts of President Benigno Aquino III, who he called “the most tourism-oriented president in history.”

“He believes that it (tourism) is, in fact, one of the most critical industries of the Philippines’ future,” he said.

Jimenez said that they are currently “putting final touches” to the international campaign of “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” which he described as “inspired by the memes or versions of Filipinos” of the slogan.

“We are going to get better and better at this,” he said.