DOT seeks P1B for ‘branding’ PH in 2018 as top travel destination

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Marawi smoke air strike
Reuters file photo shows smoke following a military air strike in Marawi. The DOT is asking for P1 billion to market the Philippines as a travel destination, but has yet to assess the impact of the siege on Marawi's tourism income.

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) plans to spend P1 billion next year, which will include the heavy use of social media, in touting the Philippines as a top travel destination.

The P1-billion budget for “branding campaign program” was part of the P3,376,457 budget proposed by the agency for 2018. The appropriations committee of the House of Representatives began deliberations on the proposed appropriation on Wednesday.

The proposed branding budget is P700 million higher than the P300-million fund for 2017. In 2016, the budget was higher, however, at P1.15 billion.

The branding budget will be used, among others, for global media placements (P100 million); country brand development (P300 million); media study (P50 million); and global media influencers (P250 million), according to Tourism Undersecretary Katherine de Castro.

“We’re happy that Congress is supportive increasing the branding budget. Compared to our neighbors, just in ASEAN, we are really far behind,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said in an interview.

He underscored that while the use of social media influencers, such as travel bloggers, is not cheap and could cost hundreds of millions, their impact and reach could be “far and wide.”

“That’s what you’re paying for,” he said. “P1 billion is still less than what the other countries are spending if we wish to reach our target a year of 12 million tourists a year.”

Alegre said that the country will retain the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” in its “upgraded” tourism campaign.

The department earlier cut its partnership with McCann Worldgroup Philippines, after the advertising company was accused of plagiarizing a South African tourism commercial, for the ‘Sights’ ads it made for the DOT.

He said the department paid the agency only for the campaign ‘Anak’ but not for the purportedly copied ads.

Meanwhile, Alegre acknowledged that the fighting in Marawi City has affected tourism in the province.

“Of course, there is an effect, we can’t deny that but in other areas in the country tourists still arrive. Kami mismo ang magsasabi, don’t go to Marawi, pero may Davao, may Siargao,” he said.

At the budget hearing, Lanao Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo scolded the DOT officials for not being able to present data on the impact of the Marawi fighting on tourism. “You should have done a better job,” he said.

Dimaporo also said that the DOT should be actively taking part in discussions about Marawi’s rehabilitation.
“I hope you are more proactive, rather than just waiting to be called by the Executive Secretary or the Secretary of the National Defense because we need you there,” he said.

“I am saying this as a Maranao. …Infrastructure is not all we need; we need to restore our way of life. Tourism development should be one of them,” Dimaporo added.