This new tourism slogan was launched by the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) in January 2012. Mixed opinions have met the new brand campaign that replaced the “Wow Philippines” tag line which was in use since early in the previous decade. Amidst aggressive tourism marketing campaigns employed by other countries, which can even leave advertisement songs playing over and over in our heads, we are challenged to offer “more fun” tourist destinations.
What will define the level of “fun” for visitors is the holistic tourist experience which includes hassle-free travel, well-placed accommodation and varied choices for shopping and dining. Foremost of these is the tourist attraction, which is a visitor’s primary consideration. With a new brand campaign, tourists may expect new attractions, apart from the locations we have traditionally been famous for.
Investment in a tourist-attraction development involves significant risk which can be materially reduced if other supporting services are likewise addressed, such as transport facilities, accommodation establishments, and retail and dining facilities. Among key considerations for tourism investment is the placement of quality road infrastructure that significantly improves accessibility to and within destinations. Ease of doing business also plays a vital role since investors aim for predictability and efficiency to realise investment returns. As an additional motivating factor, investment promotion agencies like the Board of Investments (BOI) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) have incentives in place, i.e. tax perks which are available to would-be tourism-related investments.
Local governments have played a part in campaigning for the recognition of local sites as globally renowned attractions. While these aggressive efforts have been largely focused on natural attractions, there are many unrealised areas in the Philippines that possess potential for tourism-related development. Maybe we are too aware of how tourist attractions are supposed to look when they are completed so we fail to see the potential of raw, undeveloped land.
The more appropriate strategy seems to be evident in various tourism-related investments currently in place: Capitalise on current resources and create the attraction. Take the case of the Camarines Sur (CamSur) Watersports Complex. Having established itself as the eco-tourism and water-sports capital of the country, it has overtaken Metro Manila and Cebu in 2010 in terms of tourism volume, when it was nowhere in that list ten years ago. Tourism volume for CamSur in 2008 more than tripled to 2.3 million in 2010. Other examples are the Baywalk development along the coast of Manila Bay (currently undergoing major renovation) which became a prime attraction for dining and nightlife activities, and the Zoobic Safari which helped renew interest in leisure/recreation activities in Subic, Zambales. Further, Entertainment City will rise in a previously ignored reclaimed area along Manila Bay which is expected to boost tourism revenues through world-class entertainment resorts.
Tourism destinations are generally frequented since they are easily accessible. For provincial locations, highways that cut through hills and mountains are built to reduce travel time, while some roads are widened to accommodate more vehicular traffic.
The DOT may have formulated a new slogan to renew interest in Philippine tourism, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Tourism investment stakeholders have to work together to ensure the proper infrastructure and support facilities are in place to bolster tourism activity and realise investment returns.
About the author
Sharon Saclolo is a Research Manager for Jones Lang LaSalle in the Philippines, based in Manila.