It was during the term of Richard Gordon as the Secretary of Tourism when the slogan “WOW Philippines” was coined as a strategy to market the Philippines to tourists around the world. In doing so, he used the slogan in various tourism expositions and road shows to bring foreign tourists to the Philippines. He also encouraged local tourism by showcasing the country’s provincial destinations and with the help of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s holiday economics. With the increase in the arrivals of tourists to the Philippines in spite of a mutiny, several security threats, and health concerns for travelers, it was clear that the “WOW Philippines” campaign has been doing well, perhaps even after Gordon’s term as Tourism Secretary.
Philippine tourism was doing fine generally until the August 23 hostage taking fiasco took place. It was then when the Philippine tourism industry experienced massive cancellations of bookings due to security concerns of those who would have been tourists coming to the Philippines. Perhaps it is because of such a blow to the image of the Philippines that President Noynoy Aquino and his tourism team led by Secretary Alberto Lim came up with a new slogan titled “Pilipinas kay Ganda” which translates to “Very Beautiful Philippines”.
Such a commitment on their part definitely gives the Philippine tourism industry something to look for as it is the President himself who is directly involved in attempting to bring the Philippines back to the list of international tourist destinations. It is also the President himself who requested allies to take back a recent security advisory to would-be tourists to the Philippines. Clearly, he does care for the Philippine tourism industry. But maybe this is not enough.
Many would think that resurrecting Philippine tourism could be done even without the name change. That is partly correct. Believe me, though, that changing a slogan somehow helps in changing the mindset not only of the target market, but also of the people working for the marketing institution. Hence, in so doing, the President and the Tourism Secretary are telling the Tourism team, “We are doing something new.” In the same way, it is like the Philippine tourism team telling the tourists, “We are doing something new.” And I truly hope that they are.
When they unveiled the new slogan, I could not help but be intrigued with the choice of words. Yes, “Pilipinas kay Ganda” sounds good, but it doesn’t sound right. It just doesn’t sound right.
I have to admit that upon hearing the slogan’s title, what came first to my mind is the country’s premier television station’s morning show, Umagang Kay Ganda. What came next is the presidential sister’s affiliation with the said television station. Biased? Maybe he is, or maybe it is I who am. Who would have thought that a slogan that sounds good to the ears would be misinterpreted by one like me to be a president’s way of showing how he favors one of the country’s largest television networks? Given one of his staff’s exclusive interview to this network at the irritation of the other networks, I could be right.
One might say, though, that this is baseless. After all, the slogan targets not only the local tourists, but also, and more importantly the foreign tourists. If that is so, I wonder then how the foreigners would understand the slogan at first glance. I also wonder how this could be retained in the minds of tourists who do not understand Filipino because it has almost twice the number of syllables of the old slogan–WOW Philippines–which clearly many foreigners understand even if not all of them understand English. Expressions and interjections such as “wow” have been commonly borrowed in various languages that people definitely understand what this word means. The ingenuity of Gordon’s team vis-a-vis Noynoy’s.
Not Addressing the Issue
The change of slogan is perhaps just one way to divert people’s attention to the main issue at hand. The issue why the tourist arrivals in the country have declined in the past months is that of their security while in the country. Before, many believe that as long as they are not in the southern part of the Philippines or in remote boondocks, they are safe. Now, that perception of the country had changed. Thanks to one former senior inspector Rolando Mendoza and a number of officials and mediamen, the world came to the conclusion that even the country’s National Capital Region is not as safe as people think it is.
With the recent release of travel advisories against the Philippines which even stressed the non-exemption of the City of Manila from security threats, the other countries have effectively destroyed this diversion program of the government when they changed the country’s tourism slogan. After all, it is not long before tourists arrive to the conclusion that a country who could not take care of a one-man hostage taking fiasco at the nation’s capital would likely falter when faced by terrorist activities. The President clearly knows this, even lashing on the country’s allies who issued these travel advisories.
This is the issue that has to be addressed. Maybe the government should strengthen the country’s police and military forces, and do something to show the world that the country will not tolerate incompetence and negligence, which the President failed to show in his action on the report issued by the Joint Incident Investigation and Review Committee (JIIRC).
To the Philippine tourism industry: Quo Vadis? Where are you going?