“It’s more fun in the Philippines” is over and now it is “Bring A Friend”.
Couple of years ago, I came across an article where it said that the Philippines is one of the least preferred country to travel in South-east Asia and honestly I was not surprised. Although being known for typhoon and crazy rebels, we have not really challenged our fellow Southeast Asian countries which are doing well in tourism. We are barely even a quarter to the number of visitors Thailand receives in a year and quite a far cry from Vietnam or Malaysia.
Sometimes I wonder why but being an active Couchsurfer and having foreign friends opened my eyes about the existing problems our country have and should work on to become a better tourist destination. I started this list couple of years ago in my old blog in frustration and decided to update it (still with frustration).
There are tons of things to improve on but these 5 listed are the most annoying for me as a traveler.
Here are my suggestions for the Department of Tourism and the Philippine government in general.
1. Reliable Cab Drivers and Public Transportation
The minute you get off the plane, your chances of getting ripped off is high. Most of the time, the airport taxis have broken meters. I fell victim once to one airport taxi. His meter went crazy that when we reached to our place it was already P1,500 when it was from NAIA Terminal 1 to Makati Ave. which should cost around P400.
Imagine if all the cab drivers in our country are making sure that we find the quickest and cheapest way to our destination? Luckily we now have Grab and Uber in the country.
Another thing, if you go to Hong Kong, you can easily go from one spot to the other thanks to the metro system and organised government-owned buses.
Think of it, if they work on improving this, make getting from point A to point B easier, it will definitely make travelling in the Philippines a lot more appealing with less time lost to commuting.
2. Affordable and Available Healthy Food
It has been one of my frustration when I walk around the city and other places in the Philippines. It is always easy to find adobo and other pork dishes but you rarely find a vegetable dish (without meat) or even a simple salad. With the rest of the world going for a healthier and sustainable lifestyle, it is sad that a primarily agricultural country is lagging behind. It does not cost that much to prepare healthy dish as I cook regularly. I have lost count of the travelers that I have met from Germany, UK, Canada and other countries that had no choice but to stop being vegan just because it was a lot of stress to travel and maintain such diet in this country. We should keep up and make more food options not only vegetarian but even Kosher and Halal ones.
3. Good Roads and Quality Accommodations
This year I have gone to Siargao a lot and one of the things that I wished they worked on before the stadium are the small roads that end up getting flooded and muddy during rainy season and same issues exist for Boracay and other destinations.
Another thing is compared to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, our accommodations are pricey for the quality we offer. If you book a bunk bed for P 500 you cannot expect much in this country. I had an experience where I booked a place in Agoda for a business travel in Batangas and on the description it said “Resort” so we expected it as a real resort but here in the Philippines, places labelled as resort are misleading. We arrived there to find out they have really old air conditioners, no hot and cold shower and the beds were quite uncomfortable and they were charging the same rate as a good hotel in Makati!
4. Equal Charges for Local and Foreign Visitors
I find it preposterous to see how they charge tourists according to local and foreigner be it in Taal Lake or Palawan. Where is the equality? It is bluntly showing that we want to make more money from foreigners. They already spend a lot more than most locals so we should not keep this practice. Just because they have a more powerful currency does not mean that we should milk them off. We should not be charging them double!
When I go to another country, I do not want to feel this way so why should a country who is known to be generally Catholic treat everyone differently? Go figure.
5. Convenient Travel Information
I went to Puerto Galera and it was our first time travelling so we wanted to find out information about the place but we found a closed tourist information center. I also tried asking some of the people in a tourist information center in Palawan and they were not fluent enough to entertain questions in English. Let’s not talk about those seemingly useless road signs.
If we want more travelers visiting our country, we should make sure that travelers will not have a hard time finding information about places.
Our official website also needs more apps that would be useful for travelers like bus and ferry schedules and online booking options and not just picture perfect photos.
They should create an app for travel assistance where chatbots can help customise their itineraries or give suggestions on places to visit.
Also, I hate to admit it despite having so many world-class social media influencers in the Philippines, our official tourism instagram sucks a lot!
There are definitely a lot of areas wherein we can improve to elevate the experience of tourists and travelers coming to our country and I know that we have a long way from being this raw to becoming a better tourist destination but we should not wait too long.
Yes, in general, this is a rant to the current system because they spend so much on superficial campaigns and forget that it is experience that will make people want to come back. We are lucky because Filipinos are one of the friendliest and welcoming people but we should not rest until these things are improved. It is time to change the current status of the Philippines for being one of the least popular destination.
Do you agree with my list? Share your suggestions.