In his third week in office, DoT Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. appeared before the tourism press on Monday, September 12 for the first time after his official acceptance of the post in Malacañang, answering important issues and describing his leadership views for the industry.
Improving Internal Capability. Jimenez said that the DoT and the country shall be “transformed” into an “enthusiastic selling unit” like all countries who succeeded in tourism. He also mentioned transformation of people into “excited selling units”.
Involving People in Branding. “The way you involve [and] enthuse people, you give part of the ownership of the brand to them. The Philippines is not the brand of the DoT, this is the brand of all Filipinos. Theoretically, we can have 95 million slogans if you like for as long as we agree on a theme. Our job is to set the tone, character, and the theme of the new Philippine brand. And then we will encourage everybody to take it as far as it will go.”
He also said that one of the jobs of DoT is “to create an environment where people can travel more easily so that they can talk better of the place”.
Tourism Slogan. Jimenez is hopeful that the slogan would be released by December. Describing his marketing campaign, “Our objectives are far more ambitious, in my opinion, than what Wow Philippines was designed to achieve.” Meanwhile, “I’m allowing the process to proceed as planned and if, for some reason, it crops up as a recommendation, we will look at it very objectively.”
Alternative Point of View. Asked on how Jimenez would handle the negative items that are outside of his authority (such as pollution, corruption, poor urban planning, etc.), he offered an alternative point of view, “I urge you to focus on what we do have and what we do have is Asia’s most concentrated, most streamlined business districts”. He described that not even Bangkok has such concentration as Metro Manila particularly Makati has. He also took note of the Filipino service and camaraderie, saying, “You can go to some of the most beautiful hotels elsewhere in the world but the service is horrendous”.
“An expat staying in another country for two years, will go to the same bar every Friday, will probably be recognized in that bar. That same expat, if he stayed in the Philippines for two years in Manila, would have a hundred Filipino friends, made godfather in some Filipino’s wedding, and he probably would have visited the homes of some of his friends in Manila. That is a very crucial difference. In spite of the dirt and pollution, this is one of the most dynamic cities in the world.”
He summarized, “For every negative anyone can name, I have a positive.”
National Tourism Development Plan. Some provisions would need “tightening and refocusing”, commented Jimenez.
Budget. He said that cooperation within the tourism industry is most vital with the recurring issue of the budget. Despite this hurdle, “the weakness of my budget is also my strength because then I have a case to put in front of other [government] agencies to achieve my goals with their help.” He expounded that lack of a significantly large budget opens the arena for stronger stakeholder cooperation.
Academic Curriculum. Jimenez commented that tourism schools should focus their curriculum on “persuasion”, referring to tourism as “a business of persuasion”.
Tourism Targets. Asked whether he shall be maintaining the former tourism secretary’s 6.3 million arrivals in 2016, he said, “We think we can do somewhat better than that.” He didn’t expound on the details.
Pocket Open Skies. “It was meant to open up the country for tourists…It was also done because we believe Filipino airlines are among the best airlines in the world, and that they will find a way not only to survive but to lead and to prevail.”
Conflict with the Tourism Congress. “You begin by making friends, and that means you must not give up on the opportunity to reach out to people,” Jimenez answered after being asked to comment on Alberto Lim’s ill relationship with the Tourism Congress. “Unity in the tourism industry is absolutely essential”. With talks currently underway, Jimenez promised, “The current situation will change.”
Security. US Federal Aviation Authority inspectors shall be arriving at December to see improvements on the Philippines which in 2008 had failed in their Category 1 criteria for safety regulation issues.
On the issue of travel bans, Jimenez had this to say, “You don’t get almost four million visitors annually if you are the most feared country in the world.”
(Paolo Abellanosa, reporting from the press conference at the DoT)