Is it still more fun in the Philippines?
THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism’s campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” is admittedly catchy. But I honestly believe and humbly confess, in all sincerity and with 20/20 hindsight, that the slogan may have been an overpromise. If it were true, then we should have had 10 million overseas Filipino workers scrambling to return home, or the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration should have been closed by now. Therefore, I believe it’s NOT MORE FUN in the Philippines at all. But having said that, let me also state unequivocally, it’s not NOT LESS FUN either.
What’s the point? From the words of a seasoned traveler: “We travel to other places not because they are better, but because they are different.” Come to think of it, did any of the countries ranked as the top tourist destinations in the world ever find the compulsion for an advertising campaign that promised their country was better or more fun than another? Not even France, which is the world’s perennial top-ranked destination with 80 million tourists annually. What did the French do? They built manmade landmarks for people around the world to come and marvel at, and relied on the best form of marketing—“word of mouth”—not ad campaigns with overpromises or comparative claims.
Tourism advertising is different from marketing shampoo or detergents where companies can compare their brands versus competition through side-by-side demonstrations or consumer testimonials, to get prospective users to switch brands. In tourism, one cannot do that for the simple reason that “your competitor is your customer.”
Imagine a Filipino tourist in Kuala Lumpur telling a Malaysian host: “Come visit us because it’s more fun in the Philippines than your country.” What do tourists all over the world invariably tell their gracious hosts at farewell? “We hope you can visit us some day.”
Furthermore, there is a truism in advertising, “The best way to kill a bad product is to advertise it.” Shall we start by fixing what is broken with the product before any global announcement? Our airports and airlines, traffic, roads and Ro-Ros, hygiene and sanitation, safety and security, peace and order, crime and violence, hunger and poverty and, yes, even toilets and toilet paper. Then word will spread spontaneously with or without a multimillion-dollar tourism advertising campaign.
As successful entrepreneurs advise, “Think big. Start small.” Let us start with our domestic tourism, improve as we go along, and build something for the whole world to marvel at, instead of relying purely on God-made wonders like white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, which we also tend to despoil.
What we have is God’s gift to us, but what we build is our gift to God and to the rest of humanity. Sadly, we have not built any world-class structure—monuments or memorials, shrines or towers, landmarks or attractions, museums or theme parks, other than shopping malls and gambling casinos.
A final word, for the DOT’s next tourism campaign: May I suggest that we simply bring out the best in our country and in our people; avoid comparisons and overpromises, while upholding truth in advertising:
There is no place like home; there is no place like the Philippines. To our balikbayan: “Welcome home.” To returning tourists: “Welcome back.”
To retirees: “Welcome to your new home.” To Fil-foreigners: “Welcome to your hometown.” And for first-timers to the Philippines: “Welcome. Feel at Home.”
An idea that speaks the truth as much to 100 million Filipinos, as it does to 1 billion tourists—the trademark hospitality of all Filipinos whether rich or poor, and whether here or around the world. The Philippines is a land as beautiful as its people; and the Filipinos are as warm as their country’s climate.
Tuloy po kayo (Welcome). Palamig po kayo (Have a cold drink). Kain po tayo (Let’s eat together).
Wilfrido V.E. Arcilla (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a marketing and advertising consultant. He has 30 years of corporate experience and private consultancy around the Asia-Pacific region. He is known as “The Brand Healer” whose advocacy is “Healthier Brands are Wealthier Brands.”
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