COMMENT ATTIRER ... LES TOURISTES ?
Bottom dweller. Note that among the 10 topnotchers are two of our Asian neighbors. China had 51 million visitors who poured in $39.7 billion into the Chinese economy, and Malaysia had 23.6 million visitors who spent $30 billion -much more the remittance of $18.7 billion of all our OFWs last year. I am not surprised by the Chinese performance but the big wow is Malaysia.
Des photos de plages ... vides !
Among the bottom-dwellers was the Philippines with 3.5 million visitors who spent $2.49 billion. The tourist attractions of Malaysia are similar to ours. But it received almost 10 times more tourists and earned 10 times more dollars than us. If we can replicate just half of the Malaysian performance, our economy will boom. And perhaps, our people need not go abroad to find jobs.
Without preempting the new tourism secretary (Ramon Jimenez), I think any tourism program should consider at least five basic things: (1) product, (2) transportation, (3) accommodation, (4) facilitation, and (5) marketing.
Stress the positives. On the first, our "product," I think we should learn to capitalize on our "positives," like our naturally hospitable, smiling and English-speaking people; and the very reasonable prices of our food, hotels, shopping and entertainment. We need to stress our multi-culture heritage and natural attractions like beaches (nothing in the world beats Boracay).
And let's plan long term for the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Pampanga. It may be "far" from Manila, but so are the huge Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur airports. Yet, with proper rail and freeway links, these new international gateways are admired everywhere. Did you ever wonder why cruise ships practically ignore our country? Well, let us provide better facilities for them!
Aside from international carriers, we need to review our domestic air links, shipping lines, tourist buses, taxis, and our crude railroad tracks. Years ago, the DoT was advertising the Banaue Rice Terraces. The big question was: How do we get there?
On accommodation, we have great hotels here that charge reasonable rates. But we need many more hotel rooms of the kind and price range that complement the NTDP's aim to double our tourist arrivals in five years. It is not easy to build hotels. We need feasibility studies, visionary entrepreneurs, resources, time and stable government policies.
Finally, our marketing must be synchronized with our product. If we decide to sell mainly beaches, then we need to find foreign tourists who want them. We cannot sell beaches to mountain climbers or to non-swimmers. Also, the world is a huge market. We need to segment it and focus on the tourists who want our attractions.
Marketing programs take time. Foreign tourists plan their vacations years before they undertake them. Big tour wholesalers take three years to include new destinations in their programs. This requires consistency and constancy in our marketing campaigns. "Malaysia truly Asia" was trumpeted for over five years before it took root. Let's take lessons from other countries. Let's be consistent and coherent in our marketing campaigns.