Philippines’ New Tourism Ad Draws Flak

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Philippines’ New Tourism Ad Draws Flak

The advertisement, a showcase of the country’s new “Love the Philippines” slogan, contained stock photos from other countries.

Philippines’ New Tourism Ad Draws Flak

A cove in Busuanga island in Palawan province, Philippines.

Credit: Depositphotos

The Philippines has a new tourism slogan – one that quickly became controversial after it was exposed that a video ad promoting the rebrand contains stock photos of exotic destinations from other countries.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco led the launch of the new slogan “Love the Philippines,” describing it as the country’s “love letter to the world.”

“If we are to compete with our neighbors in our effort as well to partner with them for Asia to become a powerhouse tourism region in the world, the time has come for us to add to the value proposition of the Philippines by telling the world how much more we have to offer,” Frasco said.

Tourism accounts for about 6.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and provides jobs to around 5.3 million Filipinos. There were 2.6 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2022.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. praised the new tourism campaign and underscored his government’s commitment to promote it. “The Philippines will never run out of places to discover, of meals to enjoy, adventures to experience, people to meet, talents to admire,” he said.

The new slogan drew mixed reactions. Some argued that the previous slogan, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” was more appealing and that it succeeded in attracting a record number of tourists following its adoption in 2012. Meanwhile, Marcos supporters urged critics to give the campaign a chance to revive the tourism industry, which suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

But the rebrand suffered a major setback after it was exposed that a video ad from a company hired by the government contains non-original stock photos of destinations from other countries, including Indonesia, Switzerland, and United Arab Emirates. The slogan logo was quickly parodied on social media and the new tourism hashtag trended for the wrong and embarrassing reason.

The company that released the video admitted that it made a mistake and gave an excuse that “it was intended to be a mood video to excite internal stakeholders about the campaign.” The Department of Tourism (DOT) said that it is in “solidarity with our fellow Filipinos in expressing our outrage and extreme disappointment” over the gaffe as it clarified that it has already cut ties with the ad agency and that no public funds were used in the production of the “mood video.”

Congressman Joey Salceda, who is part of the majority coalition, wanted tourism officials to take accountability. “For something as critical as an entire country’s image, you don’t “set the mood” with plagiarism,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe expressed her disappointment. “It’s frustrating to know that even the government can fall victim to blunders in marketing campaign,” she said. Earlier, she asked the government to improve airport facilities, “which are not only the nation’s gateway but also the first and last impression a tourist gets of the Philippines.”

Senator Nancy Binay advised tourism officials to drop the new slogan. “The campaign has lost its redeeming value and has become unsalvageable—I hope the DOT is level-headed enough to accept this. We expect them to be agile and move forward from failure because we don’t want the slogan to become a national embarrassment and look like losers,” she said.

Binay added that the government doesn’t have sufficient funds to finance a rebrand of the country’s tourism campaign.

But Senator Alan Peter Cayetano argued that after the acknowledgment of the mistake, it’s time to support the government’s tourism pitch: “Once a wrong is exposed (or explained) and mistakes are acknowledged and remedied, do we keep pounding on it, shooting ourselves in the foot in foreign media?”

Marcos spoke during the launch of the tourism rebrand a few days after he vowed to fight disinformation and declared that “fake news has no place in modern society.” It is ironic that he preached about the value of truth right before the release of a tourism promotion video with plagiarized content. Marcos will soon deliver his second state of the nation address as he marks his first year in office, and his critics might cite the tourism ad scandal to highlight the weaknesses of his governance. It certainly doesn’t look good that the president, whose family is accused of acquiring ill-gotten wealth during the Martial Law era, has endorsed a campaign tainted with “stolen” content from other countries.