Ilonggos’ hospitality is tourism’s No. 1 promoter

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL

“We didn’t invent anything new. Hospitality has been around forever.”— Joe Gebbia

 NEW YORK CITY — We can hold the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City in the Philippines multiple times in one year to attract tourists from all corners of the globe, but if we have a lousy hospitality, tourism will stagnate if not nosedive.

As an annual cultural and religious event held in the fourth week of January each year, the Dinagyang Festival has already captured the world’s imagination what with the digital media technology aside from the Dinagyang ati tribe’s consistent international rendezvous these past seven years, helping provide a colossal publicity and massive promotional tableau.

Dinagyang Festival has reached its peak in as far as universal recognition is concerned.

It is primarily well-advertised there in the Youtube, lionized and chronicled heavily in international journals and flight magazines, and is known all over the social media.

What the stakeholders, led by our officials from the Iloilo City Government, the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Provincial Government of Negros, Guimaras, Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, and Capiz should do now is strengthen the infrastructure and the backbones of Iloilo City and the Western Visayas’ tourism programs.

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This can be done by encouraging investors to build more hotels and resorts, and other entertainment hubs all over Panay Island and Western Visayas, or within the tourism belts where tourism spots are located like in Carles, Iloilo; Anini-y, Antique; Caticlan, Aklan; Pan-ay, Capiz; the island province of Guimaras; Talisay City, Cadiz City, Mambukal, among other known tourist spots in Negros Occidental.

There should be regular trade missions abroad to be participated by the regional provincial governments akin to the trade and economic mission undertaken by the Iloilo City Government in the East Coast in the United States in June 2018.

We should also invest more on the manpower and hospitality by recruiting tourism personnel and train them to become effective tourism ambassadors.

These tourism emissaries must see to it that each year when tourists from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Europe arrive for the Dinagyang Festival as well as other similar festivals and events in Iloilo City and in other parts of Western Visayas, these tourists must have the reason to come back or invite, motivate, and bring their fellow nationals.

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It has been proven that tourists are encouraged to come back when they feel a certain extraordinary warmth and peaceful climate even if they are not so head-over-heels by the local festivals and events.

When they see amiable and smiling faces and local folks who can easily and effectively communicate in English, the tourism destination becomes a second priority.

In a sustained tourism promotion, there is no substitute for hospitality.

And we have abundance of it.

When the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), led by Governor Thawatchai Arunyik, conceptualized the “Amazing Thailand” and promoted it internationally in 2015, it was supplemented by a “Discover Thainess” campaign.

The campaign incorporated the “twelve values” that Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wanted all Thais to practice.

Due to the “Discover Thainess” campaign, Thai tourism officials foresee a large increase in tourist numbers even as Ms Somrudi Chanchai, director of the TAT Northeastern Office, has forecasted that tourists to her Isan region will increase by 27.9 million visitors and thus generate an expected 65 billion baht in revenue.

We can generate more funds in tourism, and with our vast resources and God-given natural wonders and sparkling destinations, the sky is the limit.