Yesterday as I was browsing my Facebook wall, I followed a link posted by BlogWatch to a Philstar article about a plan by the Department of Tourism to launch a new â€˜country brandâ€™ next month. Since the last outcome of a DOT branding project was the catastrophically hilarious Pilipinas Kay Ganda, I found reason for cautious optimism that, at least as far as the Philstar article describes the new initiative, the current management of the DOT appears to be taking a little more care with this second attempt.
That optimism quickly evaporated, however, once I followed a link to a â€˜related storyâ€™ at the bottom of the page and found this little gem:
MANILA, Philippines – Promoting the country as a destination for divorcees is â€œpractically synonymous to marketing the Philippines as a destination for sex tourists,â€ Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said yesterday.
The lawmaker was reacting to the statement of Tourism Assistant Secretary Domingo Ramon Enerio III that the agency is developing the Philippines as a destination for divorcees or those trying to recover from broken relationships.
Enerio earlier said that the divorcee market is an untapped sector that can be targeted for the long-stay tourism program. â€œIf we can be a wedding or honeymoon destination, we can be vice versa and become a destination for those in search of personal fulfillment, including those… in flight from domestic turmoil,â€ he said.
He said the Philippines can offer both relaxation and adventure to these tourists.
Aside from divorcees, he said, other possible markets for long-stay tourism are retirees, semi-retirees looking for investment venues, medical tourists, those escaping from the cold winter season, and those who have affluent children.
WOW. People in the present Administration seem to have a gift for saying stupid things, but you, Mr. Assistant Secretary Enerio with Three Iâ€™s, are clearly their King. That has got to be the most ill-considered, creepiest idea anyone has ever suggested as an official tourism marketing concept since the word â€œtourismâ€ was invented.
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On a side note, â€œpersonal fulfillmentâ€ is one of the better double entendres Iâ€™ve heard in a while.
What makes the idea creepy, of course, is that there is a kernel of reality in it. The Philippines does have a bit of a reputation for being a place where one can have a good time, so to speak, but it is a reputation that a significant proportion of the country both inside and outside the halls of power are rightly sensitive about and are trying to change. Not only is Enerioâ€™s suggestion offensive to the women of this country, it is seriously off-putting to any potential tourists: How attractive a destination is the Philippines going to be to the average vacationer, once he realizes he will probably be presumed to be a sex tourist? Even actual sex tourists would most likely be discouraged by that sort of attention.
Enerio could have stopped with the â€œcome to the Philippines for some rebound sexâ€ idea, but having baked that cake he obviously figured he might as well put some frosting on it, pointing out that the Philippines is a good long-stay destination for retirees (who can subject their fixed incomes to the worldâ€™s highest utility rates and steadily-increasing inflation), semi-retirees looking for investments (provided theyâ€™re not picky about not actually being able to own any of those investments), medical tourists (who are sure to be impressed by the medical tourism programâ€™s biggest advocate desperately trying to leave the country for proper medical care), and people with â€œaffluent childrenâ€.
If I had to guess, Iâ€™d say once those â€œaffluent childrenâ€ get wind of Enerioâ€™s remarks, theyâ€™ll be booking their parents tickets to somewhere else. Which is regrettable, because the Philippines does actually have a lot to recommend it, if management of it could be kept out of the hands of insensitive louts.