Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Sunday admitted that some foreigners have indeed canceled their trips to Mindanao because of martial law, which President Duterte imposed effective May 23, following the attack by Maute militants in Marawi City.
Teo said that while the tourists were spooked by martial law, they were more scared of the threat posed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
Security officials previously said the Maute group has ties with the IS, which promotes violence against non-Muslims.
At the start of the Marawi crisis, Teo expressed optimism that martial law in Mindanao would not have much impact on tourism.
“We will continue to promote the Philippines as a destination in spite of martial law. I am confident tourists will still come to the country,” she said in a press briefing in Moscow, Russia last May 25, two days after the Marawi crisis began.
The tourism department seeks to attract eight million visitors this year.
Palace confident of tourism’s recovery
Despite the cancellations, Malacañang expressed confidence that tourism will recover once the security issues in Marawi City are addressed.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the tourists’ decision to rebook to other destinations was expected, as foreign embassies issued travel warnings after the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“We understand the concern of foreign tourists. Safety is on top of their minds,” Abella said.
“We remain optimistic that things would bounce back once the peace, order and normalcy have been restored in Marawi,” he added.
Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law after Maute militants raided Marawi City, torched several buildings and seized more than a dozen people, including a Catholic priest.
Meanwhile, officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) clarified yesterday that they did not change the country’s campaign slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” contrary to some reports that it has been changed to “Experience the Philippines.”
“(DOT’s) main slogan is the same. We are not getting rid of ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines.’ In fact, we still use that slogan in all our collaterals,” Undersecretary Kat de Castro said.
De Castro’s statement came after the DOT was criticized for allegedly coming up with a new slogan campaign that seemed to have not undergone serious deliberation.
The DOT officially launched its newest campaign during the nationwide simultaneous flag-raising ceremonies commemorating the country’s 119th Independence Day yesterday.
The one-minute commercial titled “Sights” features blind Japanese retiree M. Uchimura who enjoyed his stay in Pangasinan, Ifugao, Paoay Sand Dunes in Paoay, Ilocos Norte and Calle Crisologo in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
At the end of the commercial, a message “Experience the Philippines” was seen on top of the country’s main slogan campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
Teo said the commercial goes beyond featuring the country’s tourist spots, as it focuses on the unique experiences that each destination can offer. (A. Romero/R.Ramirez, PS)