The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Today we have another guest post from David Aaron.  Thank you for sharing, David, I appreciate it greatly.  MindanaoBob

Tourism in the Philippines (Part 1)

A recent response to an article I wrote for this site made me realize that there were many misconceptions as to what tourism actually is and how it can benefit emerging economies. Right from the outset I have to admit that I am pro tourism and it’s actually the area in which I now work as a volunteer consultant after being in the private sector for a number of years.

The catalyst for this article was an assumption made by a reader of this site that accused the tourism sector of being rife with criminality, corruption and vice and that only the “big end of town” benefitted in terms of economic outcomes.

Philippine Rice Terraces

Philippine Rice Terraces

The reader also compared the Philippines to Paris where erudite visitors visited art galleries and restaurants then jumped back on the plane leaving nothing behind but money (I am not quoting the text verbatim but you can see the thread here (link) ) while in the Philippines it was all drugs, prostitution, black market economies, corruption etc etc. And all that is left behind is broad based poverty and a small number of ‘families’ becoming even richer.

Sure the Philippines has its underbelly where people are exploited, sure it  has it’s corruption and drugs but frankly this is equally evident in many other countries whether in Asia or in so called advanced western countries.

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I recall an article on this site that posed the question about whether food is a ‘tourist attraction’ and in my opinion (and based on research) it sure is! It makes up the tourism mix. A good destination (consultants’ speak for a country) is one that offers visitors a range of things including (not in any particular order) food, culture, natural attractions, interaction, activities, value, all in a safe environment, hopefully with a range of accommodation options and good transportation.  More recently the industry is seeing significant rise in wellness, medical and extreme adventure tourism.

The Philippines have all these things in abundance.  However some parts of the Philippines are better served than others. Is there room for improvement? There sure is! Are the Philippines well served by government management? They are definitely trying but again there is huge room for improvement.

What really excites me is the many Community Based Tourism (CBT) projects that are popping up all over the Philippines. Some are small enterprises but others are quite large. Either way they are “grass roots” projects that directly benefit the communities involved. Your community may also benefit from this approach but more of that in my next article.

Post Author: DavidA (4 Posts)


Comments

  1. Paul Thompson says

    David;
    Infrastructure set up by local or the Manila Government would be the first thing needed for tourism to succeed. A few road signs to tell you where your going and a map to that same location would be a nice thing to have. Start simple and build on that.
    Try driving into Manila on the North Luzon Tollway, you’ll find it well marked and an easy drive. But when it ends, so do the signs, now you had better be an expert on Manila or have hired a driver, or you will not even find something as large as their airport.

  2. says

    Hi David – I agree with Paul, put the infrastructure in place first. I would suggest that the country is made friendly to airlines who wish to come direct into Manila, Cebu, Davao and the new Cagayan de Oro airport soon to open. As of now there is no direct flight to the Philippines from Europe for instance. Most holidaymakers only get two weeks holidays and if it takes three days to reach your destination and the same to return there is not much incentive to visit a country that uses up half your holiday time with travelling. Just a thought to chew on.
    Regards.
    Jim.

    • says

      Hi Jim. It was my understanding that the previous tourism minister was seriously looking at an ‘open sky policy’ for the Philippines. If that were to happen it would allow much more competition and increase the number of available connecting flights significantly. I don’t know what happened to the debate, possibly someone reading this knows more. I had also read that the airline industry and international governments are very concerned over the Philippines security screening and infrastructure which will limit flights as well. It’s actually a shame because the Philippines would have been a logical ‘hub’ for Asia. Look at the success of KL, HK and Singapore. Saying that though I am no expert in Aviation and it’s a complex arena.

    • chasdv says

      I agree Jim, flying from Europe has to be a minimum 3weeks, preferably 1month stay for me to make it viable.

  3. says

    Hi Paul. You are so right. Getting the basics in place first is a priority. Government signage policies restricting unauthorized signs (visual clutter) and producing and installing directional signs would be nice to see (also authorized tourism spots, landmarks etc etc). Actually it’s one of the things we will be working on when we get back to Bohol as well as an accredited home stay program.. Unfortunately it won’t effect Manila. Hope my pilot can find the airport on the way home though; )

  4. Paul Thompson says

    David;
    In the air finding the Manila Air Port from the states is easy, fly to Guam and hang a right.

  5. Gary Wigle says

    I don’t think tourism from the West be a big deal for the Philippines. Having said that I can see a lot of tourists come from Asia coming here. Just think of all the folks that love to play golf in Japan. Coming here in the dead of winter to play golf would be a real treat. You just have to go after the right market!

    • says

      Hi Gary. Latest stats show visitation as follows:

      Korea 24%
      USA 16%
      Japan 10%
      China 6%
      Taiwan 5%
      Australia 4%
      Singapore 3% (also Canada HK, UK)
      Other 20% ?

      So western countries still represent about 25%. Keep an eye on the China numbers though over the next few years!

      • Gary Wigle says

        Those figures just show to me they are going after the wrong market. They need real tourists not just sex tourists and OFW’s coming back to visit family.

        • says

          Hi Gary. I think “going after” assumes a level of strategic intent and associated budget. : )

          Philippines annual tourism budget is 10 million. This budget has been static for the last 5 years. Malaysia’s budget is 80 million and Thailand 75 million. The picture looks aven worse when you do a per capita calculation and or a ROI calculation. But your point is well taken, if the Philippines is to develop the tourism sector into something robust they must attract a range of tourists that don’t have a negative impact on the social structure of communities. But frankly until they have a realistic budget and strategy (and infrastructure etc) the destination will remain a passive recipient of what the world throws at it.

          • Ricardo Sumilang says

            ‘…if the Philippines is to develop the tourism sector into something robust they must attract a range of tourists that don’t have a negative impact on the social structure of communities.’

            Any idea how to filter out “the bad and the ugly” from the “good”?

            • says

              Ricardo. Excellent question! And I certainly dont have all the answers. Historically other destinations do it through a price mechanism called MPP (most profitable prospects) where prices rise to the point that it supposedly keeps out the rif raf. I am not a great supporter of this method as often the destinations cease to develop and become tired and irrelevant.

              Like infrastructure, investment and promotion, a lot has to do with the leadership of communities and their vision. For instance I am currently in Luang Prabang Laos where there are things like curfews and no amplified music within the old town. They also have strict laws regarding sex between Falang (foreigners) and locals. I am not saying things are perfect here but they are thoughtfully controlled. If you want a party town they encourage you to go to Vang Veang.

              With good leadership hopefully destinations in the Philippines will evolve to offer a range of experiences and hopefully these destinations will attract more ‘legitimate’ tourists………waits for flames about “what is legitimate” : )

      • chasdv says

        It would appear that the number of Chinese visitors is set to drop significantly as Chinese travel agents have been ordered by their Gov’t to cease promoting Philippine holidays. Its all due to the tit for tat argument over the Spratlys.
        Air Asia pulled newly planned flights RP to Macau recently.

        • says

          Hi Chasdv. The Sprarlys and other issues (bus hijack) will inevitably be used as bargaining chips but in the medium to long term I think tourism from China will grow significantly.

  6. sergio borges says

    “The catalyst for this article was an assumption made by a reader of this site that accused the tourism sector of being rife with criminality, corruption and vice and that only the “big end of town” benefitted in terms of economic outcomes.”

    My comment was misinterpreted, though perfectly understood by all.
    Certainly is not necessary to create a stir to propagate their own professional activity. There are tools like ad sense, for example, or direct comments and advertisements in mass circulation vehicles that will bring visibility to your business activity.

    “The reader also compared the Philippines to Paris where erudite visitors visited art galleries and restaurants then jumped back on the plane leaving nothing behind but money (I am not quoting the text verbatim but you can see the thread here (link) ) while in the Philippines it was all drugs, prostitution, black market economies, corruption etc etc. And all that is left behind is broad based poverty and a small number of ‘families’ becoming even richer.”

    I recommend returning to school to study textual interpretation, as well as printing the comment posted for concise analysis of what was written.

    I believe it is necessary that you print the commentary written by the “reader of the site” and get help from someone qualified to interpret texts and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs that cause alteration of brain activity in order to have perfect understanding of the text.

    My name is Sergio Borges, has resided in several countries and visited dozens of others, I´m totally Pro-Tour.

    Everyone understood that we can not compare families who visit the northeastern Brazil to enjoy its exuberant nature and typical foods, with hordes of charter flights packed with rowdy looking for cheap fun, and many of them illegal. And is sad to know that after decades of this kind of tourist activity, all remains the same. Obviously referring to the second activitie that I may call “sub-tourism”.

    Once again, congratulations on your activities in Laos and the Philippines!

    Sergio Borges

    • says

      Hi Sergio. I am sorry that you feel you were misinterpreted. I am sure the readers of this site can judge (and interpret) your comments for themselves. For the record my “business activity” as you call it, is as a volunteer (pro bono) so I receive no remuneration for my activities.

  7. Bryan G says

    There is no point in trying to make Manila a tourist attraction – getting from one place to another is a nightmare and becoming worse and to be honest what is there for a real tourist to see and do? The tourist industry must concentrate on the provinces that will attract tourism due to natural features – El Nido is a case in point and also regulate the industry so that areas are not over exploited and ruined – Boracay? Puerta Galera? Pagsanjan falls was a good day out but ended up ruined by lack of control of exploiters and paedophiles.As I have said before what the government should do is employ some foreign expertise and do what they are advised because at present they really do not have a clue.The Philippines has natural advantages that Thailand and Malaysia would take second place to if properly managed but with the local attitude there really is no hope that things will change. I first came to the Philippines in 1986 and have visited regularly,been employed here for some years and love the place – my two youngest have dual British/Philippino nationality and it saddens me that things are as they are.As far as tourism goes it is run by amateurs and is no better organised than 25 years ago.
    ,

    • says

      Hi Bryan. I dont spend much time in Manila so I can’t be definitive but from what I have seen it is definitely not on my must see list. The international tourism industry is usually fairly good at bringing in expertise from other successful destinations. Unfortunatly I don’t see the powers that be here embracing external expertise where it really counts, at the higher echelon of decision making. The provences are somewhat different and we find they welcome input. That said any initiative needs to be backed by a decent budget.

  8. chasdv says

    Hi David,
    Last fall Tiger Airways started direct flights Davao/Singapore, sadly, they have recently withdrawn those flights, never seen a reason why.
    Its a real pain coz once again you have to fly to Cebu or Manila to pick up a Singapore flight, unless you come in on a return ticket from Silkair (Singapore Airlines).
    Sadly, Philippine Tourism seems to be going backwards!

    • says

      I didn’t know Tiger had pulled that flight leg. Frankly I am surprised Tiger is still in business. They were grounded for several months in Australia and have a shocking record overall. Saying that my throw away ticket is with them, Cebu Singapore. It would be interesting to see if that was still accepted if they pulled that leg.

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