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Fresh air of optimism
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: None
Date: 2002-04-09
An air of optimism is gusting in the tourism industry since the Department of Tourism, under the gung ho and aggressive leadership of Secretary Dick Gordon, launched its visibility campaign with CNN and BBC. This international campaign is coupled with another new and confidence-building campaign in the local media to perk up domestic tourism.

The international TV campaign, covering almost all overseas English-speaking tourist markets that anyone can think of, is reviving visibility and awareness of the Philippine brand. To strengthen the TV awareness campaign under the WOW (Wealth of Wonders) Philippines marketing thrust, the DOT might want to translate the TV commercial to Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese, the languages of the country’s biggest markets.

And if DOT resources permit, a version in German, French, Italian and Hindi (for the Indian market, which is larger than the combined Middle East tourist arrivals figure) would complete a great campaign. And when this happens, then we can talk about real international promotion with great expectation of a resurgent tourism industry.

All these sound expensive but if we truly want tourism to become a major driver of economic progress in the country as what Sec. Gordon wants it to be, Congress and Malacañang need to sink in more funds for overseas promotions. One way to raise fund for this endeavor is to revert the entire 40 percent share of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) from the travel tax back to the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

Under Presidents Aquino and Ramos, the travel tax was used on everything except for tourism promotion. This misappropriation continues to this day and GMA can scuttle the negative effects of this poor decision.

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At the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) last March in Berlin, Germany, DOT’s WOW Philippines campaign won the Best Marketing Effort award. This is the second year in a row that DOT’s participation (together with the private sector) at the ITB has been honored. Last year, the DOT participation was also given a special award as the “Come Back Kids of International Tourism.” These two awards were achieved because of Dick Gordon’s leadership of the country’s tourism industry. In less than two years since he assumed the top DOT post, the country has suddenly become so visible in international travel industry events. Next week, at the 51st annual conference of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in New Delhi, India, Sec. Gordon will be confirmed as PATA chair for 2003, a fitting honor to coincide with the “Visit Philippines Year” campaign next year. This campaign will be jointly promoted by the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations body on world tourism, and the DOT. The “Visit Philippines” campaign is probably Sec. Gordon’s plum on international promotion. This project with the WTO was finalized while Sec. Gordon was only in his sixth month as DOT chief.

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For decades up until today, our presidents had trumpeted to international financial markets that we want foreign investments in the country. Our finance experts in government go on overseas road shows to borrow money (to float sovereign bonds), yet we send out the opposite signals.

One case in point is PIATCO’s joint venture and build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract with the government to build the Terminal 3 in the NAIA system. Let’s get one point clear here: Terminal 3 is a BOT project, which means the new terminal is being built by the PIATCO consortium of foreign investors for the government, gratis. This BOT contract is perfect, so our legal source says. Otherwise, PIATCO’s contract to build the Terminal 3 would have landed in the courts long ago but it has not. Instead, it has merely moored in the media, a combat zone for propaganda and which means mayroon inggitan at may gusto pang sumali this late.

The reported decision of GMA to authorize Presidential Adviser for Strategic Projects Gloria Tan-Climaco to review the PIATCO contract on Terminal 3 appears to be a classic signal in driving away foreign investors. Terminal 3 is almost 80 percent completed and is, in fact, scheduled to test all systems next month for an opening in November this year. What is there to review? Is Gloria Tan-Climaco in the hunt for a ‘strategic project’ like fundraising for 2004?

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The lodging sector in the tourism industry has recently lost a great pillar, Salvador V. Cornelio, otherwise known to friends as Boy. He recently retired when he reached the compulsory retirement age early this year while working as the GM of Cebu Plaza in Cebu City. He was one of the few Filipino hoteliers who were outstanding hotel managers and who could match the hotel management skills of foreigners in the country.

According to some Cebu Plaza employes who have been working with the hotel in the last two decades, Boy was the most-liked GM of the hotel. During his eight-year tenure as GM of Cebu Plaza, Boy improved the profitability of the 420-room hotel by boosting sales (plus 35 percent) and enhancing employes’ morale and productivity. The hotel has about 514 employes and during Boy’s time, Cebu Plaza won two Kalakbay Awards in the hotel category.

As an advise to Filipino peers in the lodging sector, Boy says one needs to work overseas with known hotel brands to enjoy an expat’s salary and privileges in the country.

Boy started his career in the lodging industry at the Manila Hilton (now the Holiday Inn Manila) as asst. F&B manager in 1968. He was sent as a management trainee at the Singapore Hilton in 1971.

He joined the Holiday Inn Manila (now the Trader’s Hotel in front of the CCP) in 1975; moved to the Hyatt in Baguio in 1979 as executive assistant manager; and got assigned to Hyatt Rafols in Puerto Princesa in 1981. At the same year, he moved to Hyatt Regency Manila as executive assistant manager in charge of rooms.

In 1986, Boy begun his overseas trail-blazing career in the lodging industry. Sheraton Auckland in New Zealand recruited him to work as its director of F&B. He moved to Sheraton Hong Kong in 1991 as F&B manager. In 1992, he got assigned to manage the 1000-room Great Wall Sheraton in Beijing with 1,600 employes.

In 1994, Boy was recruited to work as vice president for hotel operations of Pathfinder, owner of Cebu Plaza and other hotel and resort properties in the country. Completing his management mission at the holding company, Boy then got appointed as GM of Cebu Plaza, a rare opportunity for Filipinos who want to work in the homeland with a foreigner’s salary scale. (Comments to


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