No frills, just thrills | Inquirer Business

No frills, just thrills

TPB embarks on campaign to promote responsible, inclusive, sustainable and equitable tourism
/ 05:05 AM October 25, 2019

Marie Venus Tan — LEO M. SABANGAN II

The Philippines hopes to open up new tourist attractions to boost its image as a major travel destinations with little outlay for infrastructure and facilities.

That may sound inconsistent but for Marie Venus Tan, chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), an adjunct agency of the Department of Tourism, that is the way to go for a country with limited resources.


Tan knows it will be difficult for the country to match the huge investments other nations are making to build bigger and state-of-the-art tourism infrastructure.


She believes the way for the country to RISE as a travel destination is to go au naturel.

RISE is one of TPB’s new marketing slogans. It stands for responsible, inclusive, sustainable and equitable tourism.

Going au naturel does not mean the Philippines, which gets scandalized by the sight of a foreign woman in a G-string bikini, is opening up nudist colonies. It simply means the country will open itself up to visitors in practically its natural state, with very little added.

While numbers easily impress—Tan reported at the recent Philippine Travel Exchange conference that foreign tourist arrivals were up by 14 percent, bringing the number to 5.5 million—the TPB chief is more interested in quality than quantity.

She says TPB wants to “put a premium into our country by targeting high spenders and giving them an optimal experience to extend their stay.”

And she wants to mobilize everyone—not just the major hospitality industry players but local governments and grassroots communities.


“We want to shift to motivational tourism, focusing more on the intangibles such as our people, culture, heritage, history, folklore, cuisine,” she says.

Having been TPB regional director in the Cordilleras, Tan has known firsthand that there are many tourists who will take the roads less travelled for new and more unique experiences.

“There is a resurgence of interest in culture, history, nature,” she says. “[Travelers] want to learn more about the people and their culture. They seek stories. They want experiential journeys.”

She wants a more sensory approach to tourism, letting travellers explore not just sights and sounds but tastes, scents and feel.

Rather than lament about what the Philippines does not have, primarily in terms of fancy tourist accommodations and amenities, Tan wants to focus on the strengths of the people. “Everybody already knows the Philippines has some of the best beaches in the world,” she says. “The focus should now be on who we are—our gastronomy, craft, culture.”

Tan says the Philippines’ history—as a fully functioning self-governed entity and trading hub before foreigners came, centuries under Spain and 50 years under the United States—has made it “authentic and unique.”

“We have a western mind, a Latin heart and an Asian soul,” she says. The country should own this distinction.

Tan hopes to get not just industry and national government involved in this bold, innovative adventure. “Tourism is the most inclusive industry,” she points out, involving people in food, retail, construction, transportation, etc. She says she tells everyone around the country, including local communities, “to make a conscious effort” to participate in the endeavor.

Just as the Philippines embarked before on the “one town, one product” initiative, Tan says every local government should make an effort to discover something unique and different in their own backyards. “They do not copy but complement [what other communities are doing],” she stresses. She expects community tourism initiatives to provide new and more jobs for the locals.

Tan hopes to offer travellers “barefoot” luxury, a back-to-basics experience with little of the modern conveniences and amenities that may involve homestays. She wants to target sophisticated, discerning tourists who do not only look for the usual comfort and conveniences offered by hotel chains and plush resorts.

“We will make it known that we are not cheap but we’re worth it,” she says.

The TPB official wants to draw high-spending travellers willing to pay for an extended stay for an optimal travel experience. They may be fewer in numbers but the revenues to be earned from them will more than make up for the slack.

But Tan stresses that TPB’s campaign to earn more from tourism will not be at the expense of the country’s natural resources and rich cultural heritage. “It (the campaign) will be more than just about profits. There will be a balance between economic gains and our responsibility as stewards of our fragile ecosystem,” she stresses.

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Tan gives the assurance that the preservation of the country’s heritage, cultural and natural resources will underpin the tourism campaign. —CONTRIBUTED

TAGS: Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB).

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