Ask the Nomads: Why are tourists hesitant to visit the Philippines?

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I whipped up a new segment here titled “Ask the Nomads” wherein I’ll be asking the point of views of our favorite travel bloggers about various travel related topics that sometimes I personally wonder about.

For the month of June, I asked seven travel bloggers:

“Why do you think tourists are hesitant to travel to the Philippines?”

I asked this question because I’ve met quite a number of travellers in the mainland Southeast Asia who doesn’t have any plans of travelling to the Philippines. I myself was baffled because the Philippines has a lot of to offer when it comes to travel. There are so many pristine islands waiting to be discovered and festivals waiting to be enjoyed.

Anyway, here’s the response of our participants for this month’s Ask the Nomads.

Juno of RunawayJuno.com

DSC_5638 copy

“I don’t think Philippines is well known as ‘backpacking’ destination to Koreans. Well, to be fair, there’s not so much ‘backpackers’ in Korea. I’m really a unique case. (or weird? :) ) Philippines is well known as ‘beach’ and ‘honeymoon’ place, especially Cebu. I think Philippines has a lot to offer other than just the perfect beach, like culture, or people but it’s just Koreans way of travel. because in Koreans mind, travel equals luxury. So they are finding luxury beaches. Well, it’s a long story to talk about. But it’s popular destination. It’s close, it’s cheaper than other places and it’s beautiful!

Nina of Justwandering.Org

nina fuentes

“People fear what they do not know. Not a lot of news about the Philippines are good — they’re mostly about a bombing or foreigners getting kidnapped and killed. The tourists I met in the Philippines have the same thing to say about the country: that it’s beautiful and they’d like to return. The travelers I met outside the Philippines, however, don’t know much about our country. That’s one of the reasons why people don’t consider coming here as much: they don’t know what they can expect here and if it’s safe to travel here. Another reason is our location in Asia. Even with budget airlines, going to the Philippines is not as easy as it is to travel from Singapore to Laos, which can be done overland or at least much cheaper by air.

Dave and Deb of ThePlanetD.com

debra corbeil and dave bouskill

“Having not been to the Philippines ourselves I can’t say that we are experts. But I think that people are hesitant to travel to the Philippines because of the crime rate. There is a perception that the Philippines is a dangerous place. Something like the “Wild West” complete with pirates and bandits. It has a dangerous reputation. There isn’t a lot of literature out there to promote its beauty and not enough people are writing about it to encourage visitors. The tourism board should do more to change people’s perception by inviting journalists and bloggers to show the positive side. We look forward to visiting soon.”

Mark of Migrationology.com

mark-ostrich

“I think many travelers are just not familiar with the amazing sights and things to see in the Philippines. Part of the reason is because the entire country is made of up of islands, that happen to be inaccessible by land forms of transportation. Once a traveler gets to the mainland of SE Asia, it’s easy to get around and visit many places by land. To travel to the Philippines takes an extra flight which can translate to a little more effort (and money). However, traveling to the Philippines is worth above and beyond all the effort it takes to get there!”

Dave of TheLongestWayHome.com

the longest way home

“Initial hesitation on the part of international tourists is first, and for most part, brought on by the prospect of multiple flights. The Philippines by nature is broken into many regions only accessible by flight. So it needs to tackle this element logically.

In relation to this, the first city many people will encounter is Manila. Which is not exactly inspiring, fun, nor enjoyable. The airports are badly linked, confusing, and the international one when flying out is easily the worst I’ve ever encountered.

Internal infrastructure for tourists is very weak compared to neighboring countries. Simply trying to find out how to get from point A to point B is a challenge.

Bad press. Simply put, the antics of your politicians makes people laugh. Used, correctly, it might even become a tourist attraction. But for now, people shake their heads in disbelief. Examples last year alone would be the farce that was the tourism boards new plagerized website and tourism campaign (I won’t even mention the pornographic dibacle attached to it). To the utter tragedy of the tourist bus massacre in Manila, and how it was handle afterwards.

The Philippines has all the potential in the world to become a premier tourist country for all of South East Asia, but it keeps shooting itself in the foot before it can even get to the planning table.

It will continue on this way until someone final takes the Pinoy ego out of the equation, and actually see the reality on the ground. Focus on the end goal of a tourism campaign. Draw up a blue print for this. Relate it to other similar countries based on real tourism not just a junket. Involve national regional tourist sectors. Control the campaign nationally, and not regionally. Make someone fully accountable for the campaign with full transparency.

Could this happen in The Philippines? Maybe the real answer is, if this did happen great things would happen”

Anil of FoxNomad.com

anil polat

“Personally, I think it’s due to a lack of organized and sustained travel marketing by the Philippine government. A single message to put the Philippines into people’s subconscious, so that when they’re planning a vacation somewhere, the country comes to mind would go a long way. Beautiful beaches, diverse islands, wonderful people, and a great deal in southeast Asia, getting people to come won’t be difficult once they hear about it.”

Claire Raborar of LakwatseradePrimera.com

claire raborar

“Yet compared with the hordes that visit other popular destinations within South East Asia, the Philippines remain largely undiscovered. It’s just not on the “tourist radar”. Why is that?

Partly it’s geography. Lying well off the coast of mainland Asia, the Philippines is not en-route to or from any other destination. It’s hard to tempt travellers off the beaten “backpacker trail” through Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos when to do so would mean incurring the expense and logistics of arranging additional flights – easier to just jump on the next bus to Krabi.

But that doesn’t explain it fully. Intrepid travellers will always find a way to get to a new, unexplored destination – but you have to know about it first. If you know nothing about a place, why would you go there? Tourism in the Philippines suffers because people simply aren’t aware of the wonderful things it has to offer.

Other SE Asian countries have had great success running extensive global tourism marketing campaigns, raising awareness and creating a “brand” for themselves. This is something that the Philippines lacks. You would be hard pressed to find a backpacker or travel agent in a western country that knows anything about tours or places to see in the Philippines. Thailand or Vietnam? Absolutely. Philippines? Ummm…”

Join the discussion. “Why do you think tourists are hesitant to travel to the Philippines?”
 

Comments

  1. Thank you very much for these inspiring answers. The Philippines weren’t on the first drafts of our itinerary, but we’ve just added it to the list after hearing so many interesting stories. Luckily, we don’t have a fixed RTW ticket, so we have plenty of possibilities to add it to our travel plan.

  2. It’s really nice to read the perception of other travel bloggers about this issue. I agree with Mark that since we’re made up of islands (7,107 islands in specific), some of the destinations can’t be accessed quickly. I’m glad that we now have budget airlines wherein our kababayans can also explore the country with less cost. I’ll keep on promoting my country and blog about its beautiful tourist spots. We will get there soon :)

  3. When I was staying at a hostel in Melacca, Malaysia I met a Spanish woman who plans to learn diving, she became interested to talk to me when she heard Im a Filipino. For her, diving is synonymous to the Philippines as per her diver friends. But she’s just concerned with the security in the country. — I guess this goes to every westeners (traveler or not). I told her that the country’s underwater world is very diverse and that the country is safe, media is just exagerating.

    • thanks for sharing some inputs man :-) im sure she’ll be interested to go once she sees the amazing pictures of our underwater world… one of the most biodiverse regions in the whole world when it comes to marine life :-)

  4. i hope tourism officials can read this.
    nice compi flip!

  5. Its for us Filipinos to work hard and lessen this initial negative perceptions of foreign travelers, but I assure everyone that once they step inside our country they’ll fall in love with the Philippines. My former boss Greg Dorris (who is the official alternate of Carlos Celdran in the Manila tours) went here as an exchanged student more than 20 yrs ago…never came back in the States…There’s a lot more who made many islands here as their home.

    We’re a great destination, problem only was that bad perception brought upon by our messy political system and corrupt practices, once we worked around that, Philippines will be more appealing to travelers.

    • nice comment Marky, although political concerns might take a longto fix, i think it would also help our economy as well (i hope) hehe

  6. anonymousblue says:

    All responses to the question should be forwarded to the Department of Tourism.

  7. Our geographical location is also a disadvantage as compared to most SEA countries which you can all reach by land travel. Flying here is quite expensive as well and surprisingly most of the backpackers I have met in the Philippines were complaining about the lack of cheap accommodation.

  8. I’ve often wondered the same thing. So thanks for giving us the different perspectives here. I guess I never really considered the Philippines until I started meeting so many friendly Filipinos…I will get there someday.

  9. I agree on all of the above. Bad press, bad marketing and zero planning. It does not help that nothing gets done to ramp up tourism because of bureaucratic red tape. Also, if you think about it not a lot of Filipinos are able to travel around the Philippines because of it’s geography. There isn’t a lot of infrastructure for seamless transport unlike in Europe or America where bus or trains are alternative options to airplanes and slow moving ships/ferries.

    In some ways though, I am glad that our gems are still hidden. Obviously for selfish reasons =)

    • i just hope that the philippines together with other countries work harder on sustainable development… :-)

  10. Great post! I was hesitant of the Philippines the first time as well, I had no idea what to expect; now it’s among my favorites and I often return :)

  11. i say no to bad press. i met a surf school owner who told me that most international surfers seldom go here due to bad publicity.

  12. WOW Philippines

    Warm Over Winter
    Wild Over Water
    Wander Over Wrecks
    Watch Our Whales
    Wonderfully Original Waterways
    World Of Weddings
    Wear Our Wares
    Wander Our Wonders
    Walk Our Walls
    Workers Of Worth
    Wacko Over Wildlife
    Warriors Of Worth -pacquiao ^_^V

  13. I really feel good if Non-Filipinos appreciate and see the potential my country has. Somehow, I’m excited with what The Philippines can offer if it progress. Thank you for the good feedback and believing in our country even a little! :) Please do visit The Philippines and see for yourself the beauty it can offer. :)

  14. PH is definitely not for a beginner backpacker. Logistics can be a challenge. I would rate this as similar to an american backpacking in Egypt. But this shouldnt stop people from visiting the country.

    For budget minded travelers, there’s an extensive bus system that can pretty much take you to any part of the country. Air travel within the country now are not very expensive either. For those with more to spend on their budget – it still offers great value for your money (albeit you can splurge and get charge a premium prices also). You can find good lodging deals on every touristy destinations. Food is relatively inexpensive. Off the beaten path (aka not touristy area like Boracay) consult a good updated guidebook for lodging. To me this is one of the not so well developed aspect of PH tourism – the selection of good hostel/guesthouses.

    As far as the fears of crime, etc. – its not any worse than most destinations outside the western hemisphere. Culturally, the locals are very helpful and sympathetic to travelers. They will go out of their way to help you if you ask for help. One thing you will notice is that people will not try to rip you off – on fares, food, lodging, etc. You will pay what the locals pay. Many of the sensationalized events are isolated and to the most part doesnt affect tourist a whole lot. Bad publicity really doesnt do the travel climate in PH justice. Its a short hop from BKK or HK so i say give it a go.

  15. vince ragay says:

    Great mind-opener for all. As a Filipino, I welcome all the constructive, bad press. How else can we improve?

    Just got back from a month long visit to Cebu, Bohol and my home province, Negros Oriental. What people are saying about the beauty of Nature and the adventures waiting for us all is true. The risks and the dangers of modern travel are nothing compared to what Magellan had to go through; but we can’t blame people for having reasonable expectations. Wait for the Philippines to come around in the next 5 or 7 years. By then, We will be talking about why we didn’t do things much earlier on.

    For example, I am wistfully looking around for an investor who would finance the construction of good-sized pump-boats that can house 20 to 40 people for a cruise from Manila, Subic, Cebu, Dumaguete or La Union to scenic beaches or diving areas. These will be affordable, local versions of expensive yachts and can replace or be alternatives to the RORO ships now available for commercial travel. We can easily provide the local food fare and musical/cultural/educational programs on-board to make the cruise appealing.

    What we need are innovative and creative ways of connecting the islands to make it easier for people to visit any point from major cities. With 7,000 islands to visit and explore, we have the business that will raise this country from the doldrums.

    If anyone is listening, email me please at manariwa@gmail.com. Thanks

    • agree… constructive criticisms are welcome so we could improve. wishing you well on your business venture…

  16. Great post. It doesn’t help that local journalists are all competing to get a scoop on bad news, kidnappings, hostage takings, which makes foreigners think that our crime rate is off-the-charts. This is especially true in Mindanao, which has so many great places, but they only get featured in the news when a bombing or conflict happens.

    I agree that it would be a great help if our transportation systems were all linked seamlessly. In other countries, you can easily ride a bus or get to a train from the airport. Here, it seems that they’re making it purposely hard for people so they’re forced to pay premium rates for airport taxis. Airports could at least arrange for a shuttle service to the MRT. And why can’t our train systems come up with one standard card? The EZ card system in Singapore works for buses, trains, etc. whatever line you’re on.

    • “It doesn’t help that local journalists are all competing to get a scoop on bad news, kidnappings, hostage takings, which makes foreigners think that our crime rate is off-the-charts. This is especially true in Mindanao, which has so many great places, but they only get featured in the news when a bombing or conflict happens.” nice perspective Kara… they say it sells like pancake but i really dont buy it though…

  17. Francisco Cancio says:

    Indeed!!! Philippines has lots of adventure, white sands beaches, in fact I think it can and will flourish with concentration in Tourism. Philippine Congress are you listening!!! it’s the last frontier since the window of industrialization has closed and shut under Marcos and wanted to be buried with heroic honors! got to be delusional thought!!!

    White sand beaches is the hidden wealth of Philippines – Dollars will flow like water. The important things and a must is Security, Sanitation, wipe out crime, abduction and kidnapping. The Philippine parliament or congress must legislate these necessities to become “The Tourism Spot” of the world!!!

    • it may be a long but worth it process if they take care of the safety and sanitation issues just like what you’ve said… thanks for the input

    • Ali Bubba says:

      Another important factor that has never been mentioned in most discussions about tourism policy direction in the Philippines is the lack of bridges. Most tourists would rather see a country’s sights on land so they can view the scenery and how the people live at ground level. Building small airports on every island is not an optimal solution especially with a limited budget for infrastructure. The major Visayas islands should be interconnected with bridges to reduce travel time and cost as well. It’s better to have one huge world class international airport in Cebu and turn it into a regional hub than to have multiple underutilized small airports.

  18. One main reasons why tourist don’t like to visit philippines is the crime rate of the country. People around the world knows very well that the philippine government couldn’t do anything to solve this problem because its the politician themselves who are doing the crimes. Politicians in this country are corrupt, hoodlums. The biggest problem of the philippines is their leaders not those pety crimes in the streets. These pety crimes can easily be solve if those politicians are sincere enough and do their expected works. People know what these politicians are doing that is why orodinary citizens just don’t care and prefer to do crimes in order to survive as they already los hope.

    Surely, tourist will forget of going back to that country once they’ve seen he real situation. In fact I happened to talked to most Filipinos around the world and if they have the opportuniies, they would rather prefer to get their relative out from that country and stay in foreign land than to stay in the philippines. Corruption in that country is slowly killing its people by making it very difficult to live in. Philippines is one of the most beautiful country in tthe world, but people won’t dare to visit it because it is very dangerous

  19. There are a lot of reasons why you should visit Philippines like festivals, people and the FOOD!!!

  20. It’s great to know what these travelers think about the Philippines. I just hope this kind of information is reaching the minds of those who are in the position. Most of the notions mentioned above is that Philippines is indeed great for its natural resources, but really lacks proper maintenance, security for the tourists and catchy ads.

    I believe if only the different concerned departments in our country would do the real things rather than the ‘masked’ actions they show to the media, Philippines can sell itself to the whole world, giving no hesitations to the people about coming there.

  21. Great post! Phillipines is on my travel radar. I am sure it has a lot to offer for a backpacker like me.

  22. Suzanne Rosenorn says:

    About 5 years ago my elderly mother in law traveled to Manila with her Fillopino pastor and another older lady. Before the even got out of the airport, two pregnabt teenage locals came running at them full speed and grabbed both their purses. Since all their info including passports were in them they could not leave the country after working weeks with the consulate. At the 11th hour she was finally allowed to come back to the states after alot of red tape. The pastor was going to leave her there.

    • im sorry to hear about what happened to your mother in law when she went to Manila :-( i hope she didnt lose faith in our people as there are many kind filipinos as well…

  23. Well I’m a Filipino and I would say that my country has many things to offer, but our tourism official are not doing well their jobs?, imagine that I saw many countries in Asia promoting there wonderful places and totally amazing, advertising on the t.v while I saw Philippine they promote but the most sad thing is look like no budget it’s a cartoon graphics where is the white beaches instead they should show it, the lagoon but nothing only cartoon graphics oh dear, and second thing is they should organized the travel fair promotion every year ok such as air,sea and hotel accommodation a 20 to 50 percent discount wow, even Filipino family can visit and see the beauty of Philippines, believe it or not manny Filipino can not even see the beautiful wonder of Philippines.and this is the biggest opportunity for us. why tourism official and the tourism sector are not creating this idea,they should be together how to promote this country,because tourism sector are the one who benefit it a lot and they create a lot of jobs.

  24. Some interesting comments as to why many people don’t have the Philippines on their travel agenda. There is a perseption that security is poor and that there is a risk to the traveller. However the reality is different. Once out of Manila, most cities are safe. Cebu for example would be one of the safest large South East Asia cities. In fact Manila can be avoided if you pick up a flight direct to cebu either via Singapore or Hongkong. This gets you close to the beautiful white beaches and great tourists spots that are definetly worth exploring. Bohol is a short fast ferry trip away. Some of the best dive sites in all Asia (and the world) are easily accessable.

    I have been travelling back and forth to this region now for 5 years. I have since build a house over looking Libaong beach on Panglao Island. Have also built two holiday villas. Through out the building process and planning stages, I never encounted any problems with officals or local business. All have been honest in their dealings with me.

    If you want a great time, some real south east Asian adventure, then jump on a plane. Get your self to Cebu and explore the region from there. thousands of islands to explore, bizarre cultures, cities and amazing landscapes to see.

  25. whoah!

    I hope the tourism board will know about the perception of the hesitant tourists.. oh my.. it’s a wake up call from reputable bloggers..

    cheers!

    Archie

  26. the media is always exaggerating the current conditions of metro manila especially BBC and Aljazeera. I’m observing it….

  27. Don Reitmeyer, III says:

    I have lived in the Philippines during my enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1986-’87. I lived near San Antonio, Zambales Province on a U.S. Naval base.
    While there is crime, just as there is in any country, I found the Filipino people to be generally very friendly and willing to help a person in need. I have many friends there and haven’t been back there in over 26 years, yet I often think how much I would like to go back and I keep in contact with some who I’ve met online. God willing I will be going back very soon to stay. The Islands are beautiful. The majority of people are nice and friendly to westerner’s. One must always be vigilant when visiting as there are many poor and desperate people who will rob you if you let your guard down, but they are not the majority. If you befriend a few Filipino’s they will look out for you and do their best to guide you, keep you safe and tell you places to avoid. Manila is expensive like many cities, but the area’s away from the city you can have a lot of fun and see beautiful places on a budget. There are violent attacks, but we have similar violence in America. Buses are cheap and take you nearly everywhere. I would encourage anyone who has the means to fly there to go. I have never regretted being among Filipinos. They once fought side by side with Americans, Brits, Aussie’s and others during WW II, so we have a common bond that ocean’s can’t divide. There is safety in numbers, so go with a group if you are concerned of violence or being robbed and you should be fine. Be sure to tell your friends when you get back home. The island of Luzon has vastly improved infrastructure since I was last there in 1987. Have fun and safe travels.

  28. As a Fil-Am (more precisely, half Filipino-American) with plenty of experience traveling in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia, I think one reason people are so reluctant to visit the Philippines is…honestly…it’s just not “exotic” enough, especially in comparison to places like Bali, Thailand, or Cambodia. There is plenty of history in the Philippines and a fascinating culture, but the Philippines’ Southeast Asian “core” is covered up by centuries of pragmatic adaptation to western colonialism and globalization. The overt imagery of saffron-robed monks or ancient Hindu temples just ain’t there in the Philippines. Instead, we got everyone in t-shirts and tsinelas (flip-flops), living in concrete high-rises (for the wealthy) or ugly cinder-block shacks (for the poor). To tourists, the Philippines is too familiar, too dirty, and too dangerous to be on a bucket list. Don’t get me wrong – I love it. I’ve explored areas all over the Philippines and have gotten way beyond the Philippines’ cheap and tacky surface (you gotta admit that). The core, I think, is what needs to be more on display.

  29. I just came back from Philippines and I already wanna go back there again. I believe that alot of people misunderstood Philippines and true that there are too much negative news regarding this beautiful country. But i truely believe in this particular saying that my Mexican friend told me of when I was in Mexico. “There’s a danger in every country you visit. You just need to know what to avoid.” Even the dodgy corners of the safest countries are dangerous isn’t it? :) Leave your woes behind and visit Philippines!!

  30. Deadbored says:

    Yeah its true, I was able to ask some foreign tourists before in Thailand why they chose Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia and did not include Philippines in their travel list, primary reason is logistics. Too much hassles travelling from one place to another. Most of them have limited time and not so much budget (usually backpackers). In the Philippines, you got to spend lots of dough if you wanna visit the mountain areas and then go island hopping. You either ride an airplane or a boat as a cheaper option, but you would spend days on a boat for that. That would mean wasted time for them. Aside from that, it is more expensive when it comes to lodging. The overnight price for a nice 3 star hotel in Bangkok is just equivalent to a renovated house cum inn in the Philippines.

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