Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Getting more Europeans as tourists

Manila Bulletin

The Department of Tourism, under the able leadership of Secretary Ace Durano, has discovered a tourism attraction that could bring many more Europeans to come to the Philippines. It has not been easy to get Europeans to travel 14 to 15 hours to come to our beaches, which have to compete with those of the Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal. If they have to travel farther, they have found Thailand a lot more accessible because of the numerous direct flights and better infrastructure. That is why we have to present to the Europeans some more unique attractions. One of them is bird-watching.

As reported in this newspaper last January 17, 2010 by Jacky Lynne A. Oiga, bird-watching has become the fastest growing outdoor activity in the United Kingdom and North America. Fortunately, a number of the most sought-after species can be found in the Philippines. Recently, The DoT welcomed a bird-watching delegation led by two of the United Kingdom's Members of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Hon. Mark Pritchard MP, Chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The MPs were impressed with their sightings of endemic birds like the rare Philippine Duck, the Philippine Serpent-Eagle, the Philippine Falconet, the White-eared Brown Dove, the Sooty Woodpecker and the Coleto.

The Hon. Mark Pritchard was so enthused with what he saw that he promised to come back and bring the whole British Parliamentarians with him. Another noted group that visited the Philippines was the Britishbased Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's fact-finding team that studied four wetlands that are being conserved as bird-watching sites and possible water resources. The exploration was part of the WWT Patron partnership Program which was signed by the London Wetland Center and the DoT during the international launch of the country as a premier bird-watching site in the World Travel Mart held in London. According to DoT Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., we first attracted the attention of the British bird-watching community when the Cebu Flowerpecker received the Bird Life Species Champion award in the British Bird-watching Fair 2009 in Oakham, Rutland, UK.

In this regard, let me quote extensively from an email I received from Mr. Tim Warren, who resides in London. He has been coming as a tourist to the Philippine since his eldest son has been working in Manila for the last two years. He is very sympathetic to the Philippines as a very attractive destination but he suggests some challenges we have to overcome. I quote from his letter:

"Ask most people in the UK what they know about the Philippines and they will tell you the following: Imelda's shoes, the 'Thriller in Manila', Manny P., volcanic eruptions, landslides, government corruption, sinking ferries and very little else! Indeed as a recent well-publicized insult from a US star will remind you, the general perception of Filipinos from those who haven't been there is unjustly low, another reason for some positive PR. Tourists forget that Thailand, one of the Philippines' main competitors for tourism, has many domestic problems, a high level of crime against tourists, many corrupt officials, an unstable government and a propensity to attract many of the undesirable Western tourists!

"However when I sit in front of my television in London I am bombarded with advertisements for tourism in India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and even remarkably Cambodia and Vietnam! When you consider where the Philippines was situated on the world stage whilst those two countries were undergoing their tribulations it simply highlights the steady decline of the Philippines and not only in respect of tourism!

"You and I fully appreciate what is on offer there, stunning and varied scenery, beautiful beaches, relatively low costs, English-speaking people who are some of the most charming and friendly in the world. From my varied travels in the Philippines, I sense that slowly some of the smaller and middle-range hotels are coming up to speed and the cuisine and communication facilities are also improving so that generally these places are obtaining better reviews from customers.

"I think it's fair to say that the undoubted cultural heritage there isn't so widely renowned as in other Asian countries and yet one thing in particular amazes me. You do possess some glorious historic churches especially in the provinces and in most other civilised countries these would be restored and tendered with loving and dutiful care. I'm astounded that when I visit these churches I see saplings growing from the exterior masonry, peeling paintwork and badly damaged historic murals inside and more often than not birds flying around in the church and nesting inside! Would it be the Government of the Roman Catholic Church who is responsible for the upkeep?"

After giving us these very constructive criticisms, Mr. Warren ends by suggesting what we should be asking the Presidentiables: "It will be interesting to see if any of the presidential candidates embrace the many advantages of promoting tourism for there is a vast untapped market to be lured!" I can only say Amen. I hope that whoever is elected President will appoint as Secretary of Tourism someone who can meet the very high standards set by Secretary Ace Durano. For comments, my email address is

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Durano has done an exceptional job so far. Besides having someone similar to his capabilities step in, he or she should also be there for the long run. The only way for a marketing and pr campaign to really work is through consistency.