THE Department of Tourism (DOT) said it will continue to pump media with improved “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign to sustain its growth momentum and further attract foreign visitors. 

But in order to achieve growth targets, DOT Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon said positive stories about the country’s tourism destinations should keep on coming.

The Aquino government is projecting 10 million tourists by 2016.

“The success of the tourism campaign is not only credited to the aggressive marketing efforts of the DOT and the private sector. It became a success because Filipinos embraced the campaign and we all seized the opportunity and took part of the campaign,” said Bengzon during the Tourism and Investment Forum held yesterday at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Two days after the media launch in January 2012, Bengzon said the campaign became the top trending topic online worldwide. It sparked off the creation of over 75,000 memes through inspired user-created ad-maker sites and mobile apps.

Its video ad recorded 89 million hits and has effectively turned the 95 million Filipinos into a tourism sales force.

“The campaign created buzz and caused major concerns among our neighbors. It pushed them to make adjustments in their promotion,” he said.

The “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign is one of the region’s most heavily awarded. It won the Warc Asia strategy prize and was recognized as Spikes, the APPIES and the Festival of Asian Marketing Effectiveness. It also earned the Tambuli Award, among others.

More work

Bengzon said that while the country is seeing significant developments in terms of tourism with the help of the “It’s more fun” slogan, the country shouldn’t rest on its laurels. 

“We need to work on more positive stories and increase our presence in social media to strengthen the country’s image. We need to post more photos and blog more about our travels here,” he said.

He, however, urged the travelers, especially the younger generation, to include vital information of their travels such as where to go, what to do and the budget aside from just taking selfies to help drive information.

“There is a need to step-up our marketing efforts as our neighbors are not sitting still. Like us, they have also leveled up in terms of marketing efforts, shifted gears to adjust to the changing travel market and embarked on cost-effective marketing strategies,” Bengzon stressed.

Promotions

The DOT has already released two destination oriented advertisements, Boracay, Davao and recently Manila aired over CNN. Bengzon said Cebu has already completed its version. He is urging other key tourism cities to also come up with their own destination-oriented videos.

In 2013, the total revenue from inbound visitors increased by 15.1 percent to a hefty $4.40 billion (P186.15 billion). About 4.6 million foreigners visited the country last year, a 9.56 percent jump from 2012 figure of 4.2 million.

Amid the challenging global tourism industry, Bengzon said Cebu remains competitive because of the province’s strong brand equity, high perception ranking, and increased investments in resorts and hotels.

This year, DOT 7 expects to welcome 3.6 million arrivals, 4.4 million by 2015 and 5.8 million by 2016. 

But he noted areas that need to be improved such as infrastructure, larger room capacity and workforce development.

In terms of air connectivity, Bengzon reported the country has pursued bilateral air talks with six countries such as France, Singapore, New Zealand, Myanmar, Canada and Macau.

Accommodations

Warner Andrada, chief tourism operations officer of DOT’s Planning and Product Development reported that Central Philippines is expected to have 72,253 rooms by 2016. Some 5,000 rooms are in the pipeline and 5,146 rooms are for planned expansion.

Visayas currently has 61,978 rooms.

Skills upgrade in the tourism workforce should also be given importance in view of the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

Bengzon said there should be a bigger pool of foreign language speaking workers in the industry.

Based on the 2014 Asian Development Bank-Department of Tourism survey, 80 percent of tourism enterprises don’t have training policies and have very low training budgets.

Fifty percent of the tourism enterprises spent less than P100,000 a year on training.

The ADB-DOT surveyed 1,000 tourism enterprises across the country.

According to Jessamine Mitra, ADB associate project analyst the results of the survey is quite alarming since an important element of a competitive tourism industry is a highly-skilled tourism workforce.

Skills training

Mitra said 26 hotels, resorts and various industry associations were given skills development grants to upgrade the quality of services of their respective tourism workers.

The grant covers 4,582 workers, of which 47 percent are women. Of the 26 beneficiaries, eight are from Cebu.

With the upcoming Asean integration, Bengzon said they expect a higher volume of inbound tourists. They also see huge growth of first-time travelers, while seasoned travelers will opt for special interest types of tour packages.

Growth is also seen in activities like diving, English as a secondary language (ESL), social tourism, community-based tourism and cruising.