The announcement of the Philippine Department of Tourism's new slogan in 2011 received a great deal of attention, not all kind. The most severe criticism was that the slogan had been used by another country back in the 1950's. Therefore, it did not demonstrate originality.
"It's more fun in the Philippines."
The slogan generated a lot of sarcasm, too, about some of the un-fun aspects of Philippine life, mainly poverty and murder.
The crucial question, it seemed to me at the time, is not whether it was original, but whether or not it would work. I wrote at the time that it seemed rich with potential.
The slogan has been brilliantly used and tourism numbers are up already. The slogan is attaching to the Philippines, and for good reason. There are a lot of fun places to visit in the Philippines if you are willing to go to natural places where there are no Disney rides or roller coasters, and in some places no Disney Hotel, either. The Philippines is indeed rich with scenery and the exotic appeal of being real.
The man in the Department of Tourism's driver's seat is Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. He was appointed to his position by President Aquino on September 1, 2011 subsequent to the resignation of Alberto Lim as Secretary. Here's what President Aquino had to say about Mr. Jimenez:
- "He's a marketing, advertising guy and tourism I think is primarily a marketing effort because the product is already there. Merong enhancing the product that we have in the Philippines and at the end of the day, he will be informing a lot of the citizens of the world that there are such and such sites accessible, it should be visited."[ABS-CBN News]
Now this is one of those appointments for which I do not fault President Aquino for hiring someone he knew, and was close to. You see, Mr. Jimenez ran the President's election campaign. The President could see the character of the man and the quality of his work. The appointment did not shortchange the Philippines in the area of capability. It strengthened it.
Mr. Jimenez had his own words to say in response to the President's announcement of his appointment:
- With its picturesque scenery, the Philippines should be “ . . . as easy to sell as Chickenjoy”.
Ah, a man with confidence. And humor.
He also had this to say:
- We will "galvanize the DoT into an honest to goodness selling unit" and "ensure that the endeavor would be fulfilling and profitable for Filipinos”.
Everything I read and see about the Tourism effort makes sense. Corporate sense. One of the things that clicks is the Tourism web site. It is the opposite of the TESDA web site I panned a couple of articles ago. It is clean, it is meaningful, it works.
Here's an example. I wanted to find a bio of Mr. Jimenez to insert into this write-up. There is NO BIO of Mr. Jimenez on the web site. This is so contrary to normal Filipino thinking that a web site should be ripe with praise for the top man, the important guy. I would guess that Mr. Jimenez figured out the web site was not about him. It was about getting tourists to the Philippines.
On visiting the site, you are not met with Mr. Jimenez's mug shot. You are met with a slide show that splashes pretty scenes of the Philippines across your computer screen. A lead story features an attractive tourist destination, including some jewels we may not know about. And you are met with helpful links to DOT accreditation, investment guidance, tourism training for businesses, sports events in the Philippines, and so forth. It is a slick, first class job built to sell the Philippines.
As you read of the organization and plans of the Department of Tourism, you also get the impression that this program is well organized and results-oriented.
Here's the tourism organization:
- Office of the Secretary: The Office of the Secretary provides leadership, direction, and substance to the overall operations of the Department
- Tourism Promotions Sector: The Tourism Promotion Sector has the primary function of promoting the Philippines as a tourist destination domestically and internationally.
- Tourism Services and Regional Offices Sector: The Tourism Services and Regional Offices Sector is tasked to ensure the pleasant entry, stay, and exit of tourists.
- Planning, Product Development and Coordination: The Tourism Planning, Product Development and Coordination Sector is responsible for the formulation and updating of the Tourism Master Plan
- Internal Services Sector: The Internal Services Sector ensures the smooth and legal functioning of the operations of the Department
One piece of very smart thinking in developing the organization is the recognition that the Philippines is in some respects a land of red tape. Administrative policy barriers could suffocate the best intents of the Tourism people. Mr. Jimenez has an individual assigned specific responsibility for cutting through the red tape.
Here are some key plan elements. Do they make sense to you? They make extraordinary sense to me. The "Destination Strategy" recognizes the Philippines has a lot of jewels that need the polish that only money (investments for the long term) can provide.
- Mission: The Department of Tourism (DOT) shall be the primary government agency charged with the responsibility to encourage, promote, and develop tourism as a major socio-economic activity to generate foreign currency and employment and to spread the benefits of tourism to both the private and public sector.
- Destination Strategy: To achieve the projected growth in tourist numbers and expenditures over the next decade, the Central Philippines will have to move to an investment-driven strategy.
- Tourism National Strategy Objectives: Formulate an integrated sustainable tourism management plan for Central Philippines, identifying viable critical environmental, infrastructure and community-based projects to link and integrate the tourism development of the area.
The plan is too lengthy to replicate here, but this is a critical excerpt that shows the ordering of priorities:
- 5.5 Product Development Policies: The main thrust of product development policy should be to upgrade and diversify the existing range of products available to the Philippines by:
- *focusing on doing one or two attractions well in each gateway location; creating at least one “must see” attraction close to each cluster/gateway;
- *improving access to, and information on, existing products;
- *improving the standard of existing tour products and programs;
- *encouraging the development of additional day visitor activities at destination areas;
- *improving the reliability of domestic transportation services; and
- *creating new resort, special interest tour products based on the unique competitive features of the Philippines.
The entire plan can be found at this link: Tourism Master Plan.
You have probably seen little if him, but you have undoubtedly seen his work. He is 57 years old, a University of the Philippines graduate from the College of Fine Arts. He has worked in advertising all his life, founding his own agency in the late 1990's (Jimenez & Partners) and building it into the largest agency in the Philippines by the time he left in 2009 to promote the President. His wife Abby is still an executive at the agency, now called JimenezBasic. His client list has included Jollibee, Selecta Ice Cream, Safeguard Soap, San Miguel Beer, Cebu Pacific and Ivory Soap. Oh, and one guy named Aquino.
His daughter is a fashion designer named Sassa.
Make note of that, aspiring young people.
Only one child, not 10.
His father was a noted labor lawyer and an uncle was a general in the Philippine resistance during WW II, and later Ambassador to South Korea.
I like this man. He thinks smart, and corporate. He goes on my "Far Out but Better than Good Old Boys" list of presidential candidates for 2016.
I'm comfortable that tourism is in good hands. First class hands.