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Think 7

/ 06:38 AM November 04, 2011

New Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez believes that the way to realize the great potential of the Philippines to attract more tourists is through a massive promotion campaign, which many believes the country lacks compared with our more prosperous neighbors in Asia.

In line with this, the Regional Director Rowena Montecillo of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas wasted no time to craft a new strategy to promote the region. There are many ways to promote the region but one that Montecillo thought would be more effective at very little cost is to ask the media to help. With this, the Tourism and Heritage Information Network 7 (Think 7) was born.

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Think 7 was organized on the day that Montecillo called a group of media practitioners in Cebu to a meeting to explain the need to promote Cebu and the rest of the region for tourism development. The group invited included the people engaged in the radio, TV and print media, especially those whose works found their way to every part of the world through the Internet. This is a very good idea and the group that came was very enthusiastic to help.

However, as mentioned by our friend, Fidel Abalos, in his Full Disclosure column at The Freeman, before Think 7 moves further, we must see first where we stand in relation to our competitors in the tourism industry. Using the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011, he pointed out that while other lower ranked countries in 2009 have moved up by 2011, the Philippines went down in overall ranking from 86th place in 2009 out of 133 countries surveyed to 94th in 2011 out of 139. Among the Association of Southeast Asian Nation member countries we fell behind to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam. We ranked higher than Cambodia and Timor Liste but who cares about the two?

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At least fifteen media people came for the meeting and agreed after the DOT briefing to form an interim body for Think 7. I nominated the most senior of our group—my friend Godofredo Roperos of Sun.Star Cebu for chairman but I in turn was also nominated. Manny Rabacal was also nominated but he pleaded with the body to vote for me. Thus, my election as interim chairman of Think 7. The others elected with me were John Rey Saavedra of The Freeman, vice chairman; Garry Lao of The Freeman, secretary; Kat Cacho of Sun.Star Cebu, treasurer and Candeze Mongaya of Cebu Daily News, public Relations Officer. The rest of the officers to comprise the interim board include Roperos, Elly Baquero, Manny Rabacal and Vernon Joseph Go.

Then came my turn to speak as the newly elected interim Think 7 chairman. I lauded the DOT for recognizing the role of the media and promised that our group will support its effort to promote the region to attract more tourists. I mentioned that recently the Asian Development Bank said that the country cannot depend on the influx of business process outsourcing companies alone to solve our poverty because many of the people accepted to work there are college graduates whereas the bulk of our young people in the province who come from poor families barely finished high school or elementary. I then mentioned that tourism is the better way to help solve our poverty now because many tourism related service activities require the work of many people who are not necessarily college graduates. I mentioned the need to go into more tourism business because Joel Mari Yu said it is not easy anymore for Cebu to compete with the other emerging countries in Asia to attract more labor intensive manufacturing industries on account of the opening up to the world of China, India, Vietnam and other formerly inward-looking countries to foreign investment using much cheaper labor as their main selling point.

Finally, I mentioned that promotion is not enough and that one of the things I would like our group at Think 7 to do is point out to leaders in the local tourism industry, including government leaders at all levels, what we still need to improve our attractiveness. On this point we agreed because it is useless to bring in more tourists only to find that when they go home they tell their friends or relatives out there to forget us after what they experienced or saw here that is unpleasant. Finally, I said that we must also encourage our visitors to go to the province to spread the benefits that come with tourism and not just stay in the city’s hotels or the beach resorts in Mactan.

I went to my hometown in the south last Tuesday. With so many people already in the province during the weekend there was no hassle for me and my wife to take our seats in one of the Ceres buses that was scheduled to leave for Bacolod via Bato and Mabinay. Look what was our first stop—a public toilet in barangay Talaga, Argao. I was not surprised because that is the usual stopping place of the air-conditioned Ceres buses plying the south, especially those going or coming from Negros Island, to allow their passengers to relieve themselves.

I think it was thoughtful of the barangay council or whoever to put up the toilet for the use of travelers, for a small fee, of course. The only trouble is that the toilet stinks and the area around was full of trash. Outside it smelled bad because many men preferred to urinate there rather than pay for using the toilet with its very foul smell. I already mentioned once or twice this problem. I hope this time the municipal government of Argao or the provincial government of Cebu with its widely publicized Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Program could do something about this. That is if we are really interested in promoting tourism in Cebu.

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TAGS: Tourism & Leisure, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez
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