A Facebook post I recently made justifying the need for those outside the travel industry to develop a culture of tourism, elicited an observation that the term need not be used as it is, since it implies that proper behavior towards tourists is not inherent to us Filipinos.
I do understand the response but I quite harbor the idea that on a larger vantage point, having this culture of tourism ingrained at the elementary level creates a deeper comprehension of what benefits the right tourism actions can bring for the country and its citizens in the long run. It simply is not exclusively appropriate behavior towards visitors, domestic or international that we advocate – but much rather relates to doing what needs to be done (tourism-wise), without the need to be told.
Take for example a recent international sports activity staged in Clark Field in Pampanga. More than 400 delegates from six countries gathered for a regional Little League Baseball and Softball tournament right at the vast parade grounds. It was just so frustrating for delegates, after their long travel time, to see the field in such generally bad condition – and that is just one of many things that could have used much needed preparation. For the sake of goodwill, I would hope that my following observations will be taken as a positive listing rather than mere criticism. Perhaps then, the seeds of a tourism culture may somehow be sowed upon those who run the huge former U.S. base should they again be the venue of similarly large future sport events.
To start with, the wild carabao grass on the parade grounds was mostly dead and the soil was so arid that a tumble weed, if there were any, would not seem out of place. Even the barest of strides blew up a torrent of dust. That being the case, imagine five baseball games played by gregarious youths at the same time the whole day and you get an idea of what the dust storm was like. Simply watering the grounds for three weeks before the event would have made the grass greener and the soil softer and player delegates would have at least enjoyed the field more.
On the marketing side, there was almost a complete absence of visible tourism officers who went around to welcome the visitors or to at least move around the crowd to provide brochures on what tourists can see or do in Clark. I figured a welcome banner at the proximity of the base would have been a good touch but even that was non-existent. I went inside the lone Clark tourism office near the CDC office and aside from the uncaring attitude of the staff there, all I took back with me were many fliers of fast food chains on their top brochure shelf. Hamburgers and fried chicken promos instead of instructions on how to get to the Clark Museum, really? Was this making sports tourism more fun the Philippines?
Players and other delegates were billeted at a nearby popular hotel and villas which were certainly walking distance to the parade grounds. However, why not play an intense three hour long baseball game yourself and then try walking back to your room with at least 15 pounds of gear for a distance of at least a kilometer under the heat of summer for five days…and see if you like it. Providing shuttles to help ferry the tired athletes to their hotels would have added much to the creation of such lasting impressions of the famed Filipino hospitality on the foreign guests. If costs were an issue, would it have been so much of an effort that sponsors cannot be tapped for that?
After 25 years in the travel and hotel industry, I have learned long ago that there is always a way to make things better. There were several spectator benches in strategic places and as well as park style benches. It was very unfortunate that they were all dusty and grimy – hence, spectators and team supporters chose to sit elsewhere or opted to lug in their own chairs. With Aeta natives in the area hanging around hawking their goods, I really had thought it would not have taken much to hire some of them to wipe the dust off the benches each morning and each afternoon. The Boracay people get this quite well as manifested by their daily clean up of the beach. I am just puzzled why the Clark people can’t do the same thing for their visitors.
There are certainly many more that I can lay down as to the things that needed to be done in order to tow the ‘More Fun in the Philippines” line but I would reserve that for a later time as I believe I need more space. Personally, I truly am of the opinion that an innate culture of tourism would have gone much in making an impact to the bus loads of travelers who came to Clark. As I saw it, the more-than 400 sports tourists who went to the former US base for a week long baseball tournament was not just a showcase. It was more of an opportunity wasted.
This column was printed in Travel Update Philippines’ March 30, 2014 issue. To reach the columnist, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach the editor of the publication, e-mail email@example.com. For subscription inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.