While the potential is boundless for the tourism industry to become a growth engine for the Philippines as it provides valuable foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities, and acts as a catalyst for direct income redistribution to the countryside, it remains sadly underoptimized.
We salute the accomplishments of all past Tourism Czars and support the Honorable Secretary Ramon Jimenez and his dedicated team in their ambitious aspirations to attract as many as 10 million tourists by 2016 and generate billions in revenues, but we lament the fact that present statistics continue to lag far behind Asian neighbors.
China has long surpassed 50 million while Malaysia has drawn more than 20 million. What can we all do to dramatically improve our travel and tourism industry?
The answer does not lie in foreigners, but in us. We will never achieve a quantum leap of growth in foreign tourists or dollar receipts without first achieving a quantum leap in our patriotism and love for our countrymen. We cannot expect to attract foreign visitors to our country if we ourselves continue to leave our country in droves.
Before we expect others to fall in love with our country, we must first rekindle our love for her. This is a must to the success of any human endeavor. No one can sell what he or she does not love.
We need to engender a sense of patriotism among our ourselves, our families and our own countrymen. Patriotism will motivate us to invest in the “HEARTS” of successful tourism – Hospitality and Hotels + Enjoyable Experiences + Airports and Airplanes + Roads and RORO Bridges + Tour Packages and clean Toilets + Safety and Security.
“Only in the Philippines”
It is a familiar line often quoted by locals and foreigners alike to capture the unbelievable sense of exasperation and frustration over a country that has been blessed with abundant beauty and a people imbued with nobility, yet shamelessly exploited by dynasties of “trapos” and greedy oligarchs. Yet perhaps it is also the best line to use to at once drive local and foreign tourism, rekindle patriotism and unify a divided nation. It can be argued and it cannot be denied there is also so much natural beauty and goodness that can be found “Only in the Philippines.”
The same line arouses curiosity among new prospects (there are 1 billion tourists globally) most of whom have never been to our shores. “What can be found ‘Only in the Philippines’”? It reinforces the experience of past visitors who can attest to our uniqueness, while presenting new, varied experiences.
It is simple and memorable, specific and unique. It is already a popular throwaway line among Filipinos and foreigners alike who are both delighted at our hospitality and aghast at our idiosyncrasies.
It is colloquial “tourist expression” that can be adapted in foreign languages for marketing. Importantly, it is campaignable even for domestic tourism because the normal course of tourism development is for locals to explore domestic travel destinations before venturing overseas.
Sadly, Filipinos aspire to fly overseas before even appreciating the beauty of our own land and the nobility of our fellow Filipinos.
Synergy of domestic and foreign tourism
“Only in the Philippines” lends itself to widespread adoption by all regions and provinces offering unique travel destinations and tourist attractions. The line creates synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The international and local campaigns will be seamlessly integrated as one, and shall mutually reinforce each other to attract both foreign and domestic tourists.
“Only in Ilocos-Only in the Philippines” showcases Vigan, in Ilocos Sur, Pagudpud Beach and Fort Ilocandia in Laoag. The Banaue Rice Terraces, Mt. Pulag and La Trinidad Valley beckon with “Only in Benguet-Only in the Philippines.” In promoting the majestic Mayon Volcano, CamSur wakeboarding, pristine Caramoan, Pacific Ocean surfing in Daet’s Bagasbas Beach, we promote “Only in Bicol-Only in the Philippines.” “Only in Panay” can you experience the “Ati-Atihan” and indulge on the paradise island of Boracay. “Only in Palawan” do you find world-renowned Tubbataha Reef and the world’s longest Subterranean River. “Only in Mindanao” can you find Mt. Apo, domicile of the majestic Philippine eagle.
Unity in diversity
All local government units can now leverage on the national and international tourism campaigns in promoting their respective local destinations. In the process, we recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of each region, but within the context of one country. “Only in the Philippines” also dovetails into the “One Town-One Product” (OTOP) program created by the Office of the President to promote entrepreneurship, identifying products which small towns can produce at a comparative advantage vs other neighboring towns. “Christmas Lanterns-Only in Pampanga.” “Strawberries-Only in Benguet.”
Sola en las Filipinas!
The real excitement is in its global application across multiple languages beyond English-speaking nations like the US and Canada, the UK and Australia.
In Mandarin Chinese, the line is “Jin Zai Fei Lu Bin.” In Cantonese, “Gan Zoi Fei Lud Ban.” In Japanese, it’s “Filipin Dah-Keh.” And in Korean, “Filipin Esoman.” The Russians would say, “Tolko V Filipine”. In Spain, our slogan is “Sola en las Filipinas,” which can also be used for most of South America. The French will say, “Seulement dans le Philippines” while the Germans will say, “Nur in der Philippinen” and the Italians, “Soltanto nelle Filipine.”
A land as beautiful as her people; a people as warm as her climate.
Where else can you find a land as beautiful as its people, a people as warm as its climate? Only in the Philippines. Where else can you find a nation as rich as its history, a culture as colorful as her transport (vintas and jeepneys)? Only in the Philippines. Where else can you find a workforce as talented as her artists, an economy as vibrant as her freedoms? Only in the Philippines. Where else can you find fruits as delicious as her hillsides (Bohol Chocolate Hills), a nightlife as breathtaking as her sunset? Only in the Philippines. Finally, where else can you find a people with pride in her past, a passion for her present, and faith in her future? All these and more “Only in the Philippines.”
God-Made Wonders, Man-Made Warmth
In promoting the Philippines overseas, we must remain humble and avoid boasting that we are better than other countries (because we are not), — but rather that we are different. In what area are we unique and different? Not in manmade, but in Godmade wonders. While the whole world marvels at all forms of manmade memorials and mausoleums, arches and statues, towers and walls, recreation and amusement parks, monuments and skyscrapers, the Philippines remains endowed with natural beauty we can boast as Godmade, not manmade wonders. And while we have no major manmade structures, we do have manmade warmth, manifested in our world-renowned hospitality and friendship.
Visualize a campaign that juxtaposes Egypt’s manmade pyramids vis-à-vis our own Mayon Volcano crowned with a headline, “While man can shape pyramids, only God can shape volcanoes.” Travelers who have gone to Egypt and admired the pyramids of Gaza can now train their sights on the “natural pyramid” of Mayon shaped by God like a perfect cone. Another billboard or print ad execution can compare the Arc de Triomphe in Champs Elysees with our very own Nakabuang Arch in Sabtang, Batanes. To project the nobility of our people, we can show killer whales kept in captivity to perform tricks in San Diego’s Seaworld compared with the world-renowned whale sharks (butanding) which swim freely and watch us swim alongside them in Donsol, Sorsogon. Finally, imagine an ad comparing the golden crown jewels with our golden sunset in Manila Bay, captioned, “Only a king can wear a golden crown, but many can share a golden sunset.”
What makes the Philippines unique? It must be the beauty of our land and the nobility of our people – a land simply beautiful; a people beautifully simple—Only in the Philippines!
(Willy Arcilla is the founder and president of Business Mentors Inc., whose mission is to help Filipino companies grow and Filipino brands compete in an increasingly competitive global economy. He has a 30-year experience in marketing and sales, advertising and media throughout Asia-Pacific and he is recipient of the Philippine Marketing Association’s Agora Award for Marketing Excellence in the Asia-Pacific region. He is the author of a new book, “Marketing and Advertising with a Conscience.”)