The brand new tourism campaign was launched last week by the Department of Tourism and taking advantage of Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter, the "It's more fun in the Philippines" campaign immediately went viral.

Tourism growth*
(*Why 3 million is not something to be happy about)

Taking a deeper look into tourism in the Philippines, one wonders why the country is still behind Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia which surpass the annual 20 million tourists mark. While tourism is growing in numbers, I found a couple of articles explaining why this is so. One of which is that that the WOW Philippines campaign was not well received in Germany and Japan where people were having difficulty pronouncing it. But statistics from the DOT show that foreign tourists grew from Japan and Germany during the period where the campaign was used? (See above infographic).

Some critics claim that lack of transportation, including the reputation of having the "world's worst airport" yet we see an increasing trend in tourism (aside from the dip in 2009 probably due to the global economic down turn?). Some claim security concerns like kidnappings and travel alerts issued against the Philippines yet we see the same increase in tourism growth. In fact, despite the negative publicity of the Hong Kong bus hijacking from last year, it seems that tourists are still pouring in.

Additionally, tourist arrivals are simply that: arrivals. The bigger question is how much do these foreign tourists bring in to the Philippine economy? Look at it this way, when 300 people visit your store, how many of those translate into sales? How many were so happy of their purchase that they decide to come back?

It's all about the experience

So the question still remains, why is tourism lagging in the Philippines? After discussing with several sources the most popular excuses are:

1. Lack of Marketing/Advertising (To pull tourists in)
2. Lack of Infrastructure (To let tourists stay and get around)
3. Security Concerns (Bad press, kidnappings, etc.)

However one needs to realize that Tourism is an "experience", we're selling an experience here, in fact we're selling Philippines as the most fun thing on earth. So here's some things we can probably take a look at:

1. Quality of tourism product (How authentic is it? Are we too "market oriented"? How do we ensure that tourists have more fun?)
2. The way businesses are treated as they are approached in industrial settings (Are we promoting enterprises who can make the visitor experiences richer and more memorable or penalizing them?)
3. Non-consideration of impacts on host communities and immediate environment (This is important because the long term implication might destroys the immediate source of resource and identity of the place not to mention the attraction that pulls the visitors to the place).

A long way to go

So where are we left now? Well the improvements in the airports, security and the campaigns are a good start, but one really needs to take a look at deeper, underlying and longer impacting considerations that help ensure that it is going to be more fun in the Philippines in the years to come.

Special thanks to Chard Gonzalo for providing insights to this article.

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