Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez was on ANC’s Headstart today to talk about the latest developments on the It’s More Fun in the Philippines campaign. The official jingle for the campaign was also featured and it was my first time to hear it. The song was upbeat and catchy and the lyrics were actually sharp and witty.
The part that stuck with me was Sobrang swerte kaya ng tsinelas mo/ Nakatapak ka sa paraiso (Your flip flops are so lucky to have stepped on paradise). This line may sound cheesy but with the all the incredible places I’ve seen in our country, it just rings true. I sat on a sea cliff in Bohol with a panoramic view of the reef below and I really felt like I was in paradise. I stood on the rolling hills of Batanes and I truly believed I was in the most beautiful place on earth. I just came from swimming with a couple of sea turtles in Mindoro and the experience was so amazing and so overwhelming I wanted to cry. With each new island, town, beach and mountain I get to explore, I fall more and more in love with the Philippines. Despite all its flaws, this is my home and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Secretary Jimenez also talked about implementing a ten-year master plan for tourism development and recognized existing problems like the overdevelopment in Boracay or the lack of a land use plan for islands in general. I don’t know him well but I do hope he is sincere in tackling the preservation and sustainability aspects of tourism. As important as it is to have a strong campaign, we should go beyond showing pretty landscape photos to entice tourists. We should also instill the concept of sustainable and responsible tourism among hotel and resort developers, tour operators, local government units and other stakeholders as well as among tourists.
Success in tourism shouldn’t be measured by the number of tourists alone. We should also evaluate if it is being done in a responsible and just manner. We won’t have any paradise to boast of if we’ve already ruined it.
Start with the basics: strict monitoring of environmental compliance, proper garbage disposal and waste management, actual implementation of laws for protected areas and natural parks, and preservation of cultural and historic sites. These are things that should have been done from the start but we know very well are routinely bypassed and ignored. We now have a new tourism logo, a new slogan and a spanking new hit jingle. How about we also try a new attitude: for once, let’s start doing the right thing.