Tour operators: Focus on implementing Tourism Act
MANILA, Philippines - Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim on Sunday admitted to rushing the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" campaign, a move that led to widespread criticisms and the eventual scrapping of the new slogan by no less than President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
"Our biggest fault was trying to please the people. We wanted to give them results right away," conceded Lim.
During Manny Pacquiao's courtesy call in Malacanang on Saturday, Aquino announced the scrapping of the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" slogan, citing displeasure from the stakeholders and the public.
Lim said he was not surprised, since it was he himself who asked for the President's blessing in junking the project. The DOT, he said, was actually scheduled to issue a press release about it on Monday, until Aquino made the announcement himself.
"We were one in this decision. It's because of the people's reaction. And you know that the people are our bosses,” he said.
In earlier interviews, Lim said he first wanted to test "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" for a month or two before deciding whether to retain or scrap it. He had wanted to first subject it to focus group discussions, something he said the public overlooked when they assumed that the slogan was final.
But the outcry, he said, became too strong to overlook.
Back to square one
The DOT is now back to square one in their search for the best slogan, starting with the presentation of their marketing plan before the President.
The department will gather branding experts who will be tasked with coming up with a shortlist, which will then be subsequently presented to Aquino.
This time, though, they will be sure to take their time.
"We're back to the beginning. But now, there's no rush. That's the lesson we learned here,” he said.
Lim is also open to recommendations that Pacquiao become one of the poster boys for Philippine tourism.
"People from anywhere in the world know Pacquiao. So they can say ‘Ah, Philippines, Pacman!' The connection is immediate,” he said.
However, Lim lamented that the DOT may no longer be able to elicit the help of advertising agency Campaigns and Grey, creator of the infamous "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" logo.
The agency designed the logo free of charge in support of Aquino, but has since distanced themselves from the controversy by saying it had warned the DOT against prematurely releasing the slogan. The agency said it was just a "study."
In spite of all these, Lim said he will forever be grateful to the agency for their help.
The Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), meanwhile, applauded this latest move, saying the DOT should now focus more on what is important for the industry.
In an interview with ANC, Philtoa President Cesar Cruz said “we appreciate this move by the President and the pronouncement of [Lim]. We see more of open-mindedness of approach in the marketing program.”
He added: “At this point, since this is now the mood, we could go back to basic that is about full implementation of the Tourism Act.”
The National Tourism Policy Act of 2009, which was signed into law in 2009, aims to promote the tourism industry as one of the country’s growth engines.
Cruz said “part of it is the organization of the Tourism Promotions Board that is mandated…to act solely responsible to draw the marketing and promotion program of the Philippines.”
The appointment of 5 private sector representatives has recently been cancelled, hampering the creation of the board, he explained.
In the meantime, the government should make do with current marketing programs such as the “Wow Philippines” and “Philippines, Where Asia Wears a Smile” campaigns, he said.
“We [should] do more on focused marketing. That is why, up to now, we’re on an uptrend. We should take care of this momentum. We do not break this uptrend, it’s different to come out with this uptrend,” he said.
“I think, without a clear marketing plan on the part of the DoT, lets keep the current programs that has been drawn out until time that Secretary Lim and the new government could come out with a more substantial marketing plan for next 6 years,” he said.
Open skies policy
Lim, however, lamented the measly budget allocation for the actual tourism advertising. A new branding can only go so far, he said.
DOT has a budget of $2 million for advertising and public relations, a pittance compared to about $40 million of neighboring countries such as Malaysia.
Despite the hitches, Lim said the tourism industry is set to attract more visitors in the coming years.
Lim said the 10% increase in tourist arrivals for the year is on track.
“President Aquino is fully supportive. First, he announced the open-skies policy. That to me is much more important. It allows more competition in the airline industry….,” he said.
He also added the infrastructure program will do wonders for the industry. The government earlier announced it will prioritize the building of 4 important airports.
“We’re also doing smaller programs, like cleaning up the airport, removing all the roadblocks to development like airline taxes,” Lim said. – With a report from ANC