MANILA, Philippines – Jollibee, that dancing bee in red representing a homegrown fast food giant of the same name, now plays a new role: as the Philippines’ newest “tour guide.”
The Department of Tourism (DOT) recently tied up with the country’s largest fast food chain as the agency continues to strengthen the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign, which was launched early this year.
Under the partnership, 239 Jollibee stores out of its current 750 branches nationwide will act as “tourism information centers,” where travelers can find maps and brochures about the Philippines. Fast food employees who work in Jollibee branches near local tourist spots will also be given training by the DOT.
The iconic mascot will also be seen in a number of promotional materials as well as major festivals in the country.
In a press statement, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said they have decided to tap Jollibee because it is "one of the country’s most iconic brands, which have helped define the Filipino way of life and culture."
“With a brand close to the hearts of Pinoys supporting the campaign, we hope to encourage more people to take an active role and be a part of this exciting and fun endeavor for the tourism industry,” Jimenez said.
He added that the DOT is open to “working and creating more fun partnerships with the private sector.”
“As I have always underscored, the success of tourism is everyone’s business. We wish to draw more support from the business community akin to Jollibee’s commitment, as we keep the momentum building upward towards our goal of 10 million foreign tourists by 2016,” he said.
As part of the partnership, Jollibee is set to launch a website called Happy Filipino (www.thehappyfilipino.com), which will feature fun facts about the Philippines as well as travel videos from YouTube sensation Bogart the Explorer.
The homegrown fast food chain is also considering giving discounts to foreign tourists and overseas Filipino workers.
“It has always been part of Jollibee’s mission to promote Filipino pride,” said Jollibee president Jose Miñana.
The Philippines had 2.85 million foreign tourists from January to August this year, a 9.8% growth compared to the same period in 2011, according to the DOT.
Key tourist generators include Korea, United States, Japan, China and Taiwan, it added.
‘Easy to sell as Chickenjoy’
Last year, Jimenez said the Philippines already has a good product to sell and all it has to do is to believe in it.
“The Philippines should be as easy to sell as Chickenjoy,” he said in a press conference, referring to Jollibee’s popular fried chicken.
Hugely popular among Filipinos, the Chickenjoy was mentioned in the influential American magazine Travel + Leisure last May.
Travel + Leisure suggested that first-timers should order Spicy Chickenjoy or fried chicken coated with chili powder at Jollibee, which was included in its “Best fast food chains in the world” feature.
Jollibee, known for its Filipino-style fast food fare, started out as a two-branch ice cream parlor in 1975. It currently has branches in the US, Brunei, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, among others.