Published on : Monday, June 19, 2017
Most of the time, whether wet or dry season, can be a perfect time for tourists to enjoy the idyllic beaches, exciting surf rides, and pristine reefs of the country which has some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines.
And for foreigners seeking unique adventures in Philippine fiestas, street parades, religious processions, food festivals, live music shows, and many more, much joy can also be found in simple pleasures: From serene rides in kalesas and pedicabs, to the thrilling bursts of speed in tricycles and jeepneys.
Apart from tourist spots imbued with natural beauty are the significant historical places like Intramuros, the walled city and original site of Manila, and Bagumbayan at Luneta Park – sacred ground consecrated by the blood of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal and other martyred patriots who led the Filipinos’ struggle for freedom from three centuries of Spanish colonialism.
Alongside places deemed national treasures that possess “outstanding historical, cultural, and artistic value” is world-renowned The Manila Hotel, the 105-year-old “Grand Dame of Asia”.
But beyond the splendour of tourist spots and cultural sites, the Philippines is known for smiling Filipinos – reputed to be among the happiest people on earth – whose vaunted friendliness and hospitality, together with the ability to communicate in understandable English, give our country a distinct advantage over our Asian neighbours with similar sites.
While some in the tourism industry might feel disheartened by recent bad news – particularly the Resorts World Manila tragedy and the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index report of the World Economic Forum which supposedly named the Philippines as the “11th most dangerous country” for tourists – let us not lose hope.
Another dampener was the controversy over the “Sights” ad of the Department of Tourism. The social media frenzy is understandable as Filipinos possess a “sense of ownership,” considering that the ad campaign is deemed to represent us and our country. But not all condemning the DOT ad, done in partnership with McCann Worldgroup Philippines, were critical of the plagiarism accusation. Some felt it was much worse.
Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the DOT campaign to revive and maximize further the glowing endorsements given to the Philippines in previous years by leading travel publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher.
In announcing the Philippines was the world’s 8th best country to visit in 2015, Lonely Planet said it made a list “compiled from hundreds of ideas submitted by Lonely Planet’s staff, authors, bloggers, travelers, and tweeters which are then refined by a panel of in-house travel experts based on topicality, excitement, value and that special x-factor” with the top 10 chosen “for their merits and the unique experiences” they offer travellers.
It’s sad that the Philippines’ ranking dropped to 79th place out of 136 economies, five notches down from last year, with the lowest rating obtained in safety and security (126th) and the highest in price competitiveness (22nd). Clearly, much ought to be done to improve the situation, especially in light of what a Sydney tourism specialist said: “People get good bang for their buck in the Philippines. But safety and security is now the number one factor in determining where tourists go. It used to be things like value for money, but that’s changed.”