Aldeguer: Philippines as the “Heart of Asia”

CEBU, Philippines – While the Philippines still has to determine its identity in the global tourism sector, it should meanwhile settle on something that the Filipinos are widely known for which is the art of service, warmth, and friendliness to put the Philippines as the “heart” of Asia.

These suggestions were made by tourism capitalist and advocate Jay P. Aldeguer as the government still has to spot the proper adjective of the country’s tourism edge, as part of branding for the international market.

Aldeguer believes that the deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers all over the globe, has strengthened the reputation of Filipinos as caring, warm and friendly. “We should be the heart of Asia.”

India is considered as the “brain” of the region, as China as the “bone”. The Philippines should immediately position itself as the “heart”, Aldeguer said.

Highlighting the festivals, fiestas, parties, among others could re-enforce this suggestion, as well as emphasizing the natural friendly ways of Filipinos to accommodate guests, and visitors.

After the failed attempt of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to make “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” as the new tourism tagline, the private sector had been urging the department to spot the country’s true identity.

Aldeguer joined other private sector tourism advocates in its stand that the country is still suffering from “identity crisis” in terms of identifying itself in the positioning as global tourism destination.

Unless the government will be able to address this issue of “identity crisis”, the country will not be able to take advantage of its maximum potential.

Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Dondi Joseph said that an active and brilliant move should be done immediately by the government led by the DOT in terms of selling the Philippines to potential tourism market abroad.

Otherwise, the country’s potential to attract more foreign visitors, will be slowly eaten by neighboring states which have also the same attraction as the Philippines, like Thailand, Vietnam, among others.

Joseph said the Philippine tourism in the recent years had been exploring its niche, but up until now, it still has to decide where to settle down, and on what strength the sector should put its confidence to.

Although, the Philippines is diverse with attractions cover from different market interests, Joseph said it has to establish its identity properly, just like other developed destinations are doing.

He said one of obvious causes that push this problem, is the discontinuity of government’s programs in tourism “every new administration changes the rules.”

In Marcos’ time, he said the Philippines was widely known for its “Tinikling (national dance)” branding, after that the country had no identified recall and it changed branding, and direction, every time new government leaders come in.

This time, while the Philippines has started to take off as a tourism destination, the new government should continue to good things that started by the past administration for the sake of the industry’s success.

In his earlier pronouncements, President Benigno Aquino III said that the Philippines will put its focus more on the tourism sector, as this has proven its strength, and considered as the fourth engine of growth of the country.

Making the Philippines, as the “Heart of Asia” is one of the closest and most effective branding strengths that should be seriously considered, Aldeguer said. (Ehda Dagooc for Freeman, January 2011)

From the Freeman (June 2008)