Pilipinas kay Ganda may still be junked


By Mayen Jaymalin – Tourism officials may have to drop the new “Pilipinas kay Ganda” tourism slogan after it drew widespread criticism and even ridicule a day after its launch.

“At this time, the new slogan is just a concept and still under study. If the people, particularly the foreign market, won’t like it, we can pull it out,” Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said yesterday.

He said the Department of Tourism (DOT) decided to make the concept public at its “early stage” so that it could get early feedback.

“We held a preview of the concept to test it and get the reaction. What is more important for us now is to know the reaction of the Koreans, Americans who are the main target of our campaign,” Lim pointed out.

He said the government has not spent a single centavo for the concept although P200 million has been allocated for it from DOT’s 2011 budget.

“DOT has not spent anything yet because we have not created a visual or printed materials since we are still in the testing stage,” he said.

The tourism chief said they would test tourists’ reaction to the slogan until the end of the year.

“Until December, we would already know whether our target market would like the new slogan,” Lim said.

He also appealed to critics, particularly those in the local tourism industry, to give the slogan a chance even as he expressed confidence that the international market would accept it.

“We came out with a campaign in the vernacular intentionally to have an edge over our competitors because we know by doing so we could catch the foreign markets’ interest because it is unique,” Lim said.

Lim said the slogan was a product of thorough research by the DOT.

The new slogan drew criticism from various sectors, which argued that it was not as imaginative as “Wow Philippines.” Critics called for the country’s eight-year-old tourism slogan, “Wow Philippines,” to be retained.

The Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines Inc. (FTIP), however, clarified that it was not opposing the new slogan.

“We are not attacking or opposing it. We will just wait how the DOT would implement it and how the program would evolve,” FTIP president Alejandra Clemente said.

Clemente said they welcomed the DOT’s announcement that the government was open to revising or dropping the new slogan.

“The private sector would definitely support any program of the DOT that would promote the Philippines in the light of the travel advisories,” she said.

“What we really need this time is aggressive marketing campaign,” she added.

The new slogan was removed from DOT’s tourism promotion website just one day after its launch, after it was severely panned by industry critics.

“Bland,” “Lacks punch,” “Sounds dishonest” were among posts made on popular networking sites about the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” slogan.

DOT spokesperson Evelyn Macayayong said the government acknowledged the criticisms and pulled down the website on Tuesday for revisions.

“The write-ups were not thoroughly edited. There were errors, and there are even allegations of plagiarism, that we copied from other websites,” Macayayong said.

The website was top billed by a candy-colored logo of the slogan adorned with a coconut tree, an endangered tiny primate called a tarsier, the sun and waves.

“I can’t understand why (we) want to get rid of a brand our country has worked so hard to build and invested so much money on,” tourism industry pundit Ivan Henares wrote on his tourism blog, “Ivan About Town.”

Controversial tourist guide Carlos Celdran wrote on Facebook that the government could have done better with “Mabuhay (Long Live the) Philippines,” which the DOT had used prior to “Wow Philippines.”

“It’s our Ole. It’s our Aloha. Seriously. It’s one word in Tagalog (Filipino) that I think a lot of foreigners might even know,” he added.

Macayayong defended the new slogan, saying “it raises awareness. It inculcates pride in our identity.”

Macayayong said she could not say when the edited version of the new campaign would go live.

The country has been struggling to shake off its image as an unsafe destination after a botched police rescue of foreign tourists seized in a bus by a dismissed policeman in August that left eight Hong Kong residents dead.

Macayayong said tourist arrivals in the eight months to August were up 14 percent from a year earlier to 2.1 million. However, the government has said it expects some fallout from the fiasco for the rest of the year.

• More criticism

Senators joined the chorus of criticism of the new tourism slogan.

“We are trying to entice foreigners to come here. How are they going to understand? First of all, why not in English which is the universal language of the globe today? And secondly, we have to find our niche because we have competitors from Southeast Asia,” Sen. Miriam Defensor- Santiago said.

“We cannot say that we have a beautiful country because everybody says that. Just think of something else. Let’s start some neurons in our brains working. Their neurons are not working. They are not on full eight cylinders. They are on two cylinders,” Santiago said of officials who conceived of the slogan.

“It wasn’t exceptional as an advertising tagline. But it was acceptable,” she said, referring to the Wow Philippines slogan. “Pilipinas Kay Ganda is, I think, ignorant and ignorance is boring,” Santiago said.

“We used to have Wow Philippines, and other countries have ‘Amazing Thailand’ with a beautiful commercial in CNN and BBC; ‘Incredible India,’ ‘Malaysia: Truly Asia.’ I do not hear Malaysia saying their slogan in Malay or the Indians in their native tongue as well as the Thais,” Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

“Who are we marketing the Philippines to? Even the Manobos will not understand Pilipinas Kay Ganda,” he said.

“If you ask me, I think somebody is drinking on the job,” Zubiri said, describing the new slogan as “unimaginative and unlikely to attract tourists.”

Zubiri clarified that his “disappointment” was with the slogan, and not with the Philippine language.

“Will it click and be understood by the Indonesian market, the Malaysian market?” Sen. Loren Legarda asked.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III noted that even Thailand has not changed its “Amazing Thailand” slogan.

“If ‘Wow Philippines’ ain’t broke, why fix it?” Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said.

Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez said before changing the country’s slogan, “extensive and tedious marketing research must first be done.”

“I don’t think foreigners would immediately understand it,” Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said instead of wasting time changing slogans, the DOT should be busy with “things that are more substantial like focusing on the good traits of Filipinos.”

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