Marketing bigwig tapped as new Philippine tourism chief

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President Aquino has confirmed that marketing and advertising bigwig Ramon Jimenez will take the place of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, whose resignation took effect on Wednesday.

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President Aquino has confirmed that marketing and advertising bigwig Ramon Jimenez will take the place of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, whose resignation took effect on Wednesday.

The President said Jimenez accepted the position and had been studying the things he would need to do for the past two weeks.

“He’s a marketing, advertising guy and tourism is primarily a marketing effort because the product is already there. (We must be) 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,” Aquino said over coffee with the media here Wednesday night on the sidelines of his state visit.

Prior to his new assignment, Jimenez was chief executive officer and senior consultant of Woo Consultants Inc., executive chairman of Jimenez Basic Advertising and vice president and executive creative director of Ace Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, an award-winning advertising firm.

He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts.

In a press conference a few hours after his appointment was announced, Jimenez said, “In accepting this role I’m keenly aware that I will succeed only if I begin by rallying the DOT (Department of Tourism) staff, the team, tourism practitioners, the government bureaucracy and the general public around one very simple idea: Tourism is the people’s business,” he said.

The President said he would be meeting with Jimenez next week to discuss the issues involving the tourism department.

Jimenez is said to be a personal friend of Aquino who helped him in the presidential campaign.

“I assume there will be things that he has discovered, things he wants done. The last communication I had with him was basically when he was assessing those that he would be working with and to a large extent I think he would be, for the meantime, maintaining the bureaucracy at the DOT,” Aquino said.

Lim announced his resignation last Aug. 12, saying he wanted to return to private life and spend more time with his family.

Aquino denied he offered Lim to be a member of the Monetary Board. He said there were too many economic problems now that Lim might not want to take a job with the same demands after resigning due to lack of time for his family.

Everybody’s business

Jimenez said he believes the key to success in any tourism endeavor of any country is to make it everybody’s business, where tourists and foreigners would always feel welcome.

The benchmark the former advertising executive had in mind is Spain, where citizens actively participate in promoting their country as a tourist destination.

“Offhand, I think any of the significant tourism countries in Europe would be a good example. Tourism there is the people’s business. They cook for tourists. Cooking there is business,” he said.

“We have no business engaging in this industry if it’s not going to benefit our people. So we’ve got to build an entire industry that is focused on generating income and employment,” he said.

“This is the most beautiful country in the world. Or let’s just say we are one of the top 10 most beautiful countries in the world. There is no reason we won’t succeed,” he said.

“My marching orders are really very simple: Tourism is the people’s business. I will do my best to make tourism a hallmark of his administration’s drive to bring the people to the road to a richer and prouder future,” he added.

No worries

Jimenez would rather not delve into the possibility of him being removed from office by Aquino, since he, like any other member of the Cabinet, serves at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

“If you accept an appointment or apply for a job, your only focus is to do well. The possibility that I will be subject to removal in the future, that’s not my problem, that’s the President’s problem,” he said.

“That’s his decision, he’s going to agonize over that, not me. My job is to do it,” Jimenez said.

He assuaged the fears of DOT personnel that a revamp may be in the offing, and urged them to cooperate in promoting the country as another tourist destination that has the edge over the rest.

The new tourism secretary is also aware of the problems that beset his predecessor who had been opposed by several quarters, which is why he intends to “deal with them as friends.”

Jobs for Pinoys

Jimenez said perhaps one of the reasons why he was chosen by the President is because he is a marketing guy, although he would not want it to be the only reason because he is also a business manager as well.

“I have much to contribute in terms of bringing strategic discipline to the challenge of promoting and developing the Philippines as one of the world’s most exciting destination brands,” he said.

Pillar of Phl advertising

Secretary Ricky Carandang lauded Jimenez’s appointment.

“Jimenez has been in the field of marketing communications for a total of 35 years, and is considered one of the pillars of Philippine advertising.”

“He has spent most of his professional career as writer, creative director, or executive for the country’s top advertising agencies, even founding and serving as CEO of Jimenez Basic,” he said in a statement.

Jimenez has worked as a journalism and marketing communications instructor in some of the country’s top universities, and is a sought-after lecturer for many successful corporations such as San Miguel Corp. and Jollibee.

“We are confident that with his expertise, Secretary Jimenez will be able to build on the success of our tourism sector and expand the markets of this country’s tourism hubs,” Carandang said.

Decisive secretary

The Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines (FTIP) also expressed support for Jimenez.

FTIP president Alejandra Clemente said she hopes that Jimenez’s wide experience in advertising would help boost the country’s tourism sector.

“Hopefully he will be a strong, a very decisive secretary and he would have good relationship with the private sector,” Clemente said in a phone interview.

She also urged Jimenez to implement the National Tourism Development Plan and the pocket open skies policy, which were implemented by Lim.

Clemente said the pocket open skies policy will allow foreign carriers to have direct flights to the country’s major destinations.

She said the country has only one runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 and that 70 percent of this is used by domestic flights.

Clemente said the government’s target of three million to five million tourists this year could not be achieved if the pocket open skies policy would not be implemented.

Clemente also asked the new tourism chief to “fix” the composition of the Tourism Congress, which she said is not composed of “real players” in the tourism sector.

Unifying leadership

Meantime, Tourism Congress vice president Jaime Cura expressed confidence that Jimenez would be able provide the needed unifying leadership and marketing expertise to make the country’s tourism industry globally competitive.

Aklan Rep. Florncio Miraflores said Jimenez must “unify the industry. There are differences among stakeholders and that must be resolved so we can move as one.”

Senators Lito Lapid and Sergio Osmeña likewise threw their support behind Jimenez, saying he is the right man for the job.

DOT employees, for their part, are confident that Jimenez will deliver results.

“As a marketing man, we are confident that he would perform well as secretary considering that tourism is essentially marketing,” the employees said in a statement.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.