Basic factors for a robust tourism industry
The controversial Department of Tourism ad campaign “Experience the Philippines” should go beyond the issue of plagiarism. The advertisement (plagiarized or not) reflects the DOT’s thrust, which is “selling” the Philippines to foreigners to get revenues. It is not bad per se, just that cultural heritage sites should not be dependent on its viability in the marketplace.
The ad showed a Japanese senior citizen tourist “experiencing” the warmth of Filipino hospitality. The Japanese seemed to be a sightseeing tourist as the background showed the different tourist sites of the country. In the end, he happily walks by himself aided by a walking stick, implying that he is sight disabled. (Not to discourage tourists but some of the most beautiful places in the country does not even have running water.)
Indeed, tourism can generate revenues and provide local job opportunities. But in order for the trade to be sustainable, the sites, arts and crafts, architecture and infrastructure, and intangible culture should be meaningful to our social being and history. If they are considered only as commodities, then the Philippine “experience” will be “plastic.”
Moreover, the government’s tourism program is contradictory to its economic policy of liberalization, particularly in the mining industry. Raw materials for traditional crafts are now endangered because of environmental degradation. Mining companies also unabatedly encroach on indigenous people’s ancestral lands without considering their humanity—their culture and tradition.
If it is revenues that they are after, the DOT should focus on local tourism. Then, Filipinos who can afford to travel will spend their money here, instead of going abroad. It will lessen the money that goes out of the country, while spurring economic activity in the country. The intangible gain is that it can help strengthen nationalism and concern for our people and the environment.
Specifically, the DOT should support the building of more museums, libraries, and parks (with working toilets) and the preservation of cultural heritage sites. If the department can afford a P650-million ad campaign allocation for McCann Worldgroup, a foreign company, all the more should there be money for the aforementioned. In sum, our people’s sense of history and our appreciation of culture and nature are basic for a robust tourism industry.
JULIE L. PO, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, firstname.lastname@example.org
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