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Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 25 August 2011 13:20

 

 

JGL Eye Column

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

  

C HICAGO (jGLi) – The Manila Hostage Crisis a year ago devastated the Philippine tourism industry just as 9/11 caused inbound tourism in the United States to take a nosedive.

 

But unlike the United States, which does not have a national tourism czar, the Philippines is one of the many developing countries, which elevated the duties of promoting the things beautiful about their countries into a Cabinet-level position.

In a few days, a new Philippine tourism secretary will be appointed by President Noynoy Aquino. The new secretary is likely to face a rough confirmation hearing.

 

The tourism secretary is one of high profile positions that is wanting in clout to perform critical tasks even if it is bringing in new money to the economy.

 

The hostage incident that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists should have given the tourism official the opportunity to give recommendations to the national government on how things should have been handled differently.

 

But apparently the booted tourism secretary had passed up the chance.

 

Although the tragic incident was caused by a random act of violence by a desperate police officer, it was made more complicated by the mishandling of the crisis by the committee that oversaw the incident. And the competition-driven media even made matters worse by interviewing the hostage taker for several minutes, depriving the committee tactical minutes to defuse the crisis.

 

The tourism secretary should have been tapped for the quick identification of the hostage victims, so critical decisions could have been made on the ground.

 

As a result of the incident, the tourism department should have come up with some kind of “primer” to Philippine in-bound tourists that in case of emergency, tourists should be provided with 7-1-1 emergency phone number for police assistance; if tourists do not speak English, emergency calls should be fielded by phone operators, who speak the tourists’ native languages or calls be routed to a pool of foreign language speakers or to local embassies.

 

This pool of interpreters will also be very critical to tourists, who are victims of muggings and qualified thefts in their hotel rooms. As part of tourism “primer,” tourists should be told to lock their valuables in the safety lockers provided by the hotels.

 

So, if majority of tourists in the Philippines speak Chinese or South Korean, the tourism department should have stand-by pool of interpreters on emergencies.

 

Tourism department should closely monitor the performance of its police fielded in popular tourist destinations around the country.

 

Truthful and immediate information are very critical in coming up with emergency decisions.

 

If tourists lose their valuables from inside those “safety lockers,” the hotel owners are automatically impleaded for conspiracy to thefts in the hotel thru the 24/7 special tourist courts.

 

“ATTACHED OFFICIALS NEEDED” 

 

T he tourism department must also have “attached” officials at all the airports and tourist spots and departments of public highways and public works.

 

If airports cannot provide decent toilets (a.k.a. comfort rooms) with running water, paper towels, solid or liquid soaps even after paying passenger terminal fee, public works officials should send out workers to construct or fix airport toilets.

 

A friend of mine provided me photos of Coron Airport in Palawan, which has toilet that has no doorknob. So, someone can peep thru from the outside. The toilets have broken faucets, no running water, no paper towel and no soap. So, my friend had to bring his own paper towel.

 

How can tourists enjoy Palawan’s “unique rock formations, many-unspoiled and uncrowded powdery white sand beaches, hot springs, lake up the mountain, scuba diving and snorkeling” if they suffer the trauma of being subjected to public view while using the airport’s toilets?

 

How can the police catch wayward tourists trafficking drugs and guns when the airport does not have a conveyor belt, an “X-ray” to detect drugs and guns and the luggage are inspected by eyes and hands?

 

I’m sure these tourists would never comeback nor spread gospel about the local attractions when all they would reminisce would the broken toilets and the lack of running water and paper towels, soaps, etc.?

 

When I visited my birthplace of Donsol, Sorsogon six years ago, there were plenty of European tourists swarming and swimming with shark whales (Butanding). But the problem with my trip with some of my Filipino-American kababayans, including Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis, her sister, Imelda Nicolas (now Philippine Chair of Commission on Filipinos), her brother, Francis Nicolas, and Chicago community leader Marlon L. Pecson, it was drizzling. The short drizzle immediately turned the narrow stretch of dirt road into a muddy road that could harm the tourists if they tripped over.

 

“PRIMER FOR TOURISTS”

 

If the department of tourism will have an “attached” official with the departments of public highways and public works, they can build a concrete road towards the Donsol beach so vehicles can get closer to the beach without the risk of injury.

Although the beach appears to be peaceful, it was a good move by the outgoing tourism secretary to field tourist police on the Donsol beach just in case of emergency.

 

Part of the “primer” to travel agents outside the Philippines is to warn tourists of strict enforcement against drug-and-gun possession and trafficking.

 

And the tourism department should have close coordination with bureau of immigration to keep up with numerous tourists, who are overstaying their tourist visas, particularly South Korean and Chinese visitors. They are putting up their own businesses in the tourist belt.

 

I would not mind if the South Koreans and Chinese visitors put up their own businesses after obtaining proper visas. But what annoyed me were the habits of these visitors not to pay taxes. For instance, among the ubiquitous Internet Cafes owned by South Koreans whom I dealt with, they never issued any receipt after I paid for their services.

 

If the tourism department can assure each tourist security, free from mugging, fast, immediate and courteous police service and other emergency assistance, clean toilets with paper towels and soaps and running water in airports, paved concrete roads to and from the tourist spots, the new Tourism Secretary will no longer need to spend millions of pesos to promote Philippine tourism.

 

“If he builds it, they (the tourists) will come.” Best wishes to the new Secretary of Tourism! # # #

 

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at: (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 

 


 

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