Jimenez: Philippines remains attractive and safe destination


MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is not worried about marketing the Philippines as a tourist destination despite the adverse travel advisories on the country.

The United States embassy earlier said it will not lift the travel warnings on the Philippines as long as there are continuing reports of bombings and crimes committed against tourists.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said that despite the existence of adverse travel warnings to the Philippines, more than three million tourists still come in, proof that the country is an attractive and safe destination.

“You don’t get 3.5 million to 3.6 million visitors if you are the most feared country in the world,” he said.

He said that while problems like pollution and crime exist in the country, the Philippines also has one of the most streamlined business districts and some of the world’s best spas and dining establishments.

“You can go to a city in another country where the hotel is beautiful, but the service is horrendous. In spite of the pollution, dirt, etc., this is probably one of the most dynamic cities in the world,” Jimenez added.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon said that foreign embassies regularly issue travel advisories but they do not affect tourist arrivals in the country.

The DOT is coming up with a new tourism slogan. Its Special Bid and Awards Committee (SBAC) is evaluating the proposals of seven advertising companies for the new country brand.

WOW Philippines, conceptualized by former senator Richard Gordon, was the department’s most successful tourism slogan.

Jimenez said he is also reviewing the National Tourism Development Plan drafted by his predecessor Alberto Lim.

“We haven’t completed the review, but our objective is to complete the proposal. I hope to be able to keep much of it because it makes a lot of sense although a few areas require tightening and refocusing,” he said.

At the same time, the department is also taking advantage of social networking websites to promote tourism in the country.

“I cannot make Palawan more beautiful than what it is now, but the gap is transforming people into excited tourism units. Imagine if everyone would just blog on what is beautiful is the country,” Jimenez said.

He said he is also meeting with members of the Tourism Congress to unify the industry.

The DOT targets to have 6 million tourist arrivals by 2016.