When announced in August, it was a surprise for professionals. New Philippines Secretary of State for Tourism, Wanda Teo, wanted to change the 2012 slogan for Philippines “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”. The slogan was created by the previous administration and had been widely seen as a successful slogan which brought exposure to the country’s tourism resources. However, Wanda Teo, explained that the brand -despite enjoying a strong degree of recognition- did not translate into additional tourist arrivals. The State Secretary referred to a study from consulting cabinet Nielsen which found that the slogan failed to encourage tourists to visit the Philippines.
The study conducted from March to April 2016 showed that in Europe, almost two in three respondents in the survey favoured the tagline. However, only one in four said they would travel to the Philippines. A similar result was seen in North America: three in four respondents liked the tagline, but less than two of the respondents said they would then visit.
Is the view of the State Secretary right about “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”? Looking at official data from the DOT, foreign visitors from January to August 2016 reached 4.04 million arrivals up by 12.59% compared to 3.59 million during the same period of last year. Consistent growth was observed with double-digit gain from January to July except for the month of May. Between 2012 and 2016, tourist arrivals have grown on average by over 8% (up by 6.4% between 2012 and 2015). By the end of the year, total arrivals should then pass the six-million mark.
However, Teo has been recently advised by UNWTO in a recent meeting in Madrid to keep the slogan. “Why to change it, asked me a UNWTO official”, Teo reported to local journalists. “I told him the reason, and the UNWTO official replied said, ‘Probably you can just… upscale it”, wrote CNN Philippines.
The State Secretary now is looking at bringing more focus to the slogan by answering the question: “Why is it more fun in the Philippines?”.
They are of course political reasons behind the slogan change. A new administration often translates by a reshaping and reformulation of all policies, including the ones which can be considered as successful. Mrs Teo should look beyond the slogan and understand why tourists are not attracted in big waves to the Philippines. Infrastructure and safety problems have been notorious in the past. Today, they are still issues related to deficient infrastructures such as roads, airports facilities, water drainage, electricity etc… As a destination, the Philippines for Europeans are further away than Thailand or Malaysia. Fares are generally slightly more expensive than for other destinations and travel time is also bigger. This could be another reason to explain the possible lack of interest.
And finally, the Department should look at the way it use its budgets for promotion. The Philippines DOT had in 2016 a total envelop of US$72.1 million (including also administration expenses). This is far from other countries in the region with Malaysia and Thailand spending over 100 million dollars just for marketing purposes.
World campaigns in social media but also on display in cities around the world should then raise further the envy to come to the Philippines. There was recently a large international campaign in cooperation with Taiwanese air carrier Eva Air in Paris’ underground. A huge campaign transformed also London Waterloo Station last April by immersing travellers into the Philippines through banners, posters and giant digital screens. Over eight million commuters pass through Waterloo each month. More similar campaigns are likely to boost the demand. However, according to local news, the government plans to cut the tourism budget to US$51 million… The right move?