MANILA — Undaunted by the effects of the COVID-19 scare, the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Thursday revealed its lineup of projects for the year, targeting mainly domestic visitors and those from Western Europe.
Howard Lance Uyking, DOT Assistant Secretary for branding and marketing communications, said they want the Philippines to go beyond its image of having pristine beaches and stunning landscapes, and showcase the country’s rich heritage and deep-rooted customs.
“There’s so much creative talent around the archipelago that we should celebrate. It’s important that we promote our culture to tourists so that they can know us better — more than a place with warm beaches and warm weather,” he said.
The highlight of the launch event at Shooting Gallery in Makati is a 60-second “abakada” video showing Philippine art, crafts, food, architecture, and fashion.
“We want to show that we are different from our Southeast Asian neighbors,” Uyking said, adding that the ad will be shown in international networks like CNN and Cartoon Network starting next month.”
“This is actually a fast way of showing what we have and who we are with these emerging markets.”
Western Europe is on the DOT’s radar this year after the Philippines experienced double-digit visitor growth from countries from the region in 2019.
A total of 8.26 million tourists across the globe visited the Philippines last year, a 15.2% growth from 2018.
According to Uyking, Western Europe is among the regions attracted by the DOT’s sustainable tourism efforts.
“We are upgrading our Save Our Spots campaign this year to include the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources),” he said, noting the success of their sustainability campaign last year. “We have partnered with DENR so we can promote our protected areas in the Philippines.”
Aside from DENR, the DOT has also tied up with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) to promote the country as a destination for local shoots and, eventually, foreign movies and shows.
Uyking said they will be providing “generous incentives” to attract film and TV productions to shoot their content in the Philippines.
He hopes that the resulting material will go beyond the Manila slums — as depicted in recent international releases — and also cover the country’s natural and cultural attractions.
Social media also continues to play a huge role in the DOT’s campaign this year, led by a partnership with the widely popular TikTok app for unique content.
“We want to feature different destinations in a way that appeals to young travelers,” Uyking said. “The idea here is to promote what can be found here in the Philippines through dance videos.”
He went on to share the immediate gains of the project, saying they gained 5 million views from TikTok videos in less than a week.
Aside from TikTok, the DOT has also launched a new marketing website, philippines.travel, which allows visitors to see recommendations and book tours from accredited agencies.
Soon, the DOT will launch a new app that can generate travel postcards using the agency’s familiar fonts, as well as a crowdsourcing tool that attracts content creators with different prizes.
“We are confident in our safety protocols and our precautionary measures,” Uyking replied when asked if they are affected by the COVID-19 scare, especially with only a few days to go before the DOT’s nationwide shopping festival.
“Not all countries have a temporary travel ban, so alangan namang 'di tayo magpo-promote,” he went on. “We will continue promoting, especially to these countries na hindi naman natatamaan.”