Discriminating against foreignersBy Jobers Bersales
In the recent Cebu Tourism Congress, someone asked why businesses and museums, Museo Sugbo in particular, charge different rates for Filipinos and foreigners, stating further that this was discriminatory to foreigners.
If I were around, I would have reminded everyone that, to cite a contrary example, we do not charge visa or entry fees to a select group of foreigners coming into the country while they do not do the same to us when we go to theirs. Yet we do not cry discrimination. The visa or travel entry fees we pay if we happen to apply to visit these countries far outweigh the paltry difference in fees between Filipinos and foreigners at say, Museo Sugbo. That is just one example of course.
I remember noting this practice as far back as the late 1980s while doing my masters thesis on tourism in Panglao, Bohol at a time when there were only a handful of resorts there. I would be charged a lower rate for beer compared to the few (yes, they were few at that time) German, French and Swiss tourists.
My brother, who has a regular Japanese visitor every year, was charged almost double the rate at a local five-star hotel when he noted the Japanese friend’s name on the registry. He always pays for the Japanese fellow every time he comes as a guest to Cebu. Therefore, he argued, he should be charged the lower, Filipino rate for the hotel, which he got.
Why the fuss over these differing rates when they are differ in the same way all over the tourist world? I booked a hotel room in Japan via the Internet and got a 40-percent discount! Should we now cry foul if we pay a higher rate right at the hotel counter than those who book using the Internet? Should we now cry discrimination if we do not have access to the Internet or do not know how to use a computer and not get a lower rate as a result? Should we lambast the hotel for offering a 30- to 70-percent lower rate if one goes to those Internet-based booking agencies?
For Museo Sugbo, the reason for the P30 admission fees for adult Filipinos/Cebuanos as against the P75 collected from adult foreigners is the simple matter of encouraging locals to visit the museum. We know very well that in a country like ours where culture often takes a back seat to food, museums are struggling. Even P30 for many visitors is too high. What is P75 to a Japanese, a Korean or a European? Does it take away one’s lunch to pay something like that?
I think, and this was pointed out by a follower in the Museo Sugbo Facebook page, the museum’s only mistake was to state the obvious: that it takes P75 to maintain the museum’s 12 air-conditioned galleries (plus free wi-fi and parking to boot) but to charge that amount would be a burden to Filipinos who would rather spend their free time gallivanting in air-conditioned shopping malls than carry out the cerebral (brain-cracking, information overloading) tour that museums normally provide. Thus, the recourse to a discounted P30 rate, subsidized by the Provincial Government to encourage locals to visit. And visit they did. Nearly 110,000 Cebuanos/Filipinos last year, 90 percent of whom were students who paid a further reduced P10 rate.
Fortunately for us, only a handful of visitors cried foul over the rate for foreigners, two of whom were egged on by their Filipina partners who noisily argued that this was discrimination. Museo Sugbo has promised to be more sensitive in the posting of rates.
To the foreigners out there who feel the rate is outrageous, maybe if they convert P75 to U.S. dollars ($1.79) or the Euro (1.45 Euros) then perhaps they will understand how cheap it is to learn about Cebu’s history spread in 12 galleries while they tinker with their iPads and whatnots using free wi-fi. One cannot be as lucky with that paltry sum in a 12-gallery museum in the United States or Europe, with their expensive admission fees, even if the US and private foundations pour millions to support such museums.