Senators back tourism chief Frasco: ‘Let’s give her a chance’

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senators on Wednesday, July 5 said the controversy surrounding the “Love the Philippines” campaign of the Department of Tourism (DOT) should not diminish the accomplishments made by Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco in promoting the country to the world.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said it was a good move for the DOT to immediately terminate its contract with DDB Philippines, the advertising agency it contracted for the promotional campaign of the country’s new tourism slogan as part of their rebranding efforts.

The DOT earned flak after DDB Philippines admitted to using foreign stock footage for its content when it launched the “Love the Philippines” promotional campaign video.

“Clearly there were issues with what was presented by the advertising agency but what is important is that Sec. Frasco acted immediately to address the issue and ensured that no public funds were wasted for this purpose,” Angara said.

As far as he is concerned, Angara said Frasco has been doing good in reviving the country’s tourism industry which suffered a major setback at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under Frasco’s leadership, Angara noted that the Philippines has received six nominations in the World Travel Awards Asia namely: Asia’s Leading Island Destination; Asia’s Leading Beach Destination; Asia’s Leading Dive Destination; Intramuros as Asia’s Leading Tourist Attraction; Cebu as Asia’s Leading Wedding Destination; and the DOT as Asia’s Leading Tourist Board.

The senator also said the DOT was able to develop the Philippines as a health and wellness tourism hub. The country was also recently elected as vice president of the 25th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and chairman of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific.

“What the DOT has done over the past two years following the pandemic has been remarkable and with Sec. Frasco leading the charge in declaring the Philippines open for tourists, I am confident that Philippine tourism will be able to reach new heights and the world will see the many reasons to Love the Philippines,” Angara said.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go also expressed his support to Frasco, and appealed to the public “not to lose sight of what the campaign is really all about which is to love the Philippines and share the love that Filipinos are known for.”

“Being a member of the Senate Committee on Tourism, we must work together to correct any mistake, improve our efforts to promote our country, and give our support to the efforts being done by the present administration in uplifting our economy and the lives of the poor,” Go said in a statement.

“Ang pinakamahalaga ay ang ating sinseridad na  pagbutihin ang ating trabaho na maglingkod sa bayan at siguraduhing walang nasasayang na pera na para sa taumbayan (What is important is our sincerity to do our job well in serving the nation and make sure no public fund is wasted),” the senator added.

“With this, I continue to support Tourism Sec. Christina Garcia Frasco and the rest of DOT for their efforts to further improve our country’s tourism sector. I laud their immediate actions in addressing the issue that the promotional video has caused and in ensuring that public funds are not wasted,” Go reiterated.

Mistakes happen
Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada also acknowledged that “mistakes happen” but it is how the government responded and moved to rectify them that truly matters.

“The DOT’s prompt response and responsible handling of the situation deserves recognition. The DOT exemplified accountability and commitment to learning from this incident,” Estrada said.

“By swiftly acknowledging the gaffe and taking immediate steps to rectify it, the DOT, under the leadership of Sec. Christina Frasco demonstrated a dedication to maintaining the integrity of our tourism industry,” he noted.

While any campaign of this magnitude may face criticisms and differing opinions, Estrada noted how Frasco’s handling of the issues confronting the DOT is both admirable and necessary.

“It is through proactive measures that we can continue to promote the Philippines as a premier tourist destination while ensuring accuracy and responsible marketing practices,” he stressed.

Moving forward

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, called on the government and the public to move forward from this “unfortunate incident”

“It’s truly saddening that a project that is supposed to be used to promote the country has been filled with controversies – even getting the attention of international media. The Philippines is a beautiful country – with or without a slogan,” Villanueva said.

“We need to move forward from this unfortunate incident and focus our efforts to restore traveller confidence and increase our domestic and foreign visitors,” he added.

Villanueva earlier called for a whole-of-government approach in the promotion of the tourism industry which includes reducing the cost of travel through the improvement of transport services, and skills training for tourism workers in anticipation of higher visitor demand.

The Senate majority leader also sought to strengthening micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) production of local goods and products.

Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Tourism, said the people behind the DOT’s enhanced branding should accept that the “Love” campaign is now in a marketing limbo.

“We appreciate the actions taken by the DOT against the ad agency. But the big question right now is whether or not to continue with the ‘Love’ campaign,” Binay noted.
“We need to accept that it really happens—marketing campaigns fail. In DOT’s case, it’s best to move forward from failure and save the brand at all costs. We cannot afford to put to waste everything that we built for Philippine tourism. Let’s do the right thing to protect the integrity of the brand,” she pointed out.

“Tourism is a sensitive market. Political unrest, negative media and people’s perceptions influence travelers’ decisions. Dahil nga sa nangyari, headline na tayo sa buong mundo. Naging laughing stock na ang slogan, at masyado nang tinamaan ang campaign. Nakakalungkot dahil sa unang tapak pa lamang, imbes na umarangkada ay umatras tayo (Because of what happened, we are now subject of world news’ headline. The slogan has become a laughing stock and the campaign has been hit hard. It’s sad because at the first step, instead of advancing, we retreated),” Binay also noted.

According to Binay, it would not be wise for the DOT and the people behind the marketing campaign to insist on continuing with “Love the Philippines” given the negative impact brought by the video fiasco.

The senator recommended to revert to the tried-and tested campaign, and from there work on a tactical marketing plan in order to avoid any possible window for sabotage.

She said the goals set by the DOT has already tilted and shifted, noting that it may look good on paper, but the campaign itself was beaten and battered in the real world.

“The DOT’s enhanced campaign has lost the persuasion game. We all can sense the discombobulating algorithms which carry promotion-limiting consequences. The campaign has lost its redeeming value and has become unsalvageable—I hope the DOT is level-headed enough to accept this,” she said.

“We expect them to be agile and move forward from failure because we don’t want the slogan to become a national embarassment and look like losers,” Binay further said.

“Again, huwag nang ipilit. Hindi masama ang magkamali. ‘LOVE’ was not meant to be. Let us all move on and just bring back the ‘FUN’ to the Philippines,” the lawmaker emphasized.