A still from “The People Make the Destination”, a tourism promotion video, features a surfer riding his board across “waves” of blue-clad dancers. Photo: Tourism Philippines
Destinations known
by Mark Footer
Destinations known
by Mark Footer

The big mistake of Philippines tourism promotion video? Assuming consumers of social media think deeply about anything

  • No sun, sand or special effects, but instead a squad of dancers who portray Philippine landscapes and visitor activities such as surfing
  • Elsewhere, a TikTok video of a hotel restaurant operating in a cave in Bali millions of year old belatedly stirs officials to investigate

As a work of performance art, it’s pretty good. But as a tool to boost tourism, we’re not so sure …

“The People Make the Destination” is the title of the latest promotional video produced by the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT).

The first 25 seconds of the two-minute video are devoted to a list of things the producers have “skipped” in order to keep viewers from skipping the whole thing: “the ordinary”, sun, sand, actors, drone shots, pop songs, special effects. Then we get to “what truly matters”.

The choreography involves 40 or so dancers in a studio recreating “iconic landscapes and symbols in the country, such as the Philippine eagle, the Banaue Rice Terraces in Benguet, and the Chocolate Hills in Bohol”, according to an article on the adobo magazine website (for which we are grateful, because we probably would have missed those features on first view).
Dancers recreate the Chocolate Hills of Bohol in a still from “The People Make the Destination” tourism promotion video. Photo: Tourism Philippines

There’s a church and a volcano in there, too. The last 25 seconds are devoted to a surfer riding his board across “waves” of blue-clad dancers.

The caption for the video on the DOT’s Facebook page explains: “For years, we have shone the spotlight on the country’s stunning beaches and landscapes, its marvelous heritage sites, and natural attractions. As tourism begins to pick up anew, we recognize the people who have always made our destinations more memorable and more fun – our tourism workers.”

A worthy sentiment but a little misplaced since all the people in the video – with the exception, perhaps, of the surfer dude – appear to be professional dancers rather than tourism workers.

To be fair, we didn’t wish to skip the video, but nor were we left with a heightened desire to visit the Philippines.

What’s clever, though – if you think about it – is that the people in the “People Make the Destination” ad really do “make” the destination, as in they recreate the Philippines in the form of dance.

But can a tourism video be called a success if it demands a significant amount of thought from its viewers? How many consumers of social media actually stop and think deeply about stuff?

Viewing figures suggest it has not been a hit. Released early last month, the stereo and binaural (in which audio effects convey the sounds of the nation, including waves crashing in Samar and T’boli musicians in South Cotabato) versions of the video had views in the 15,000-16,000 range on YouTube at the time of writing.

The Philippines welcomes back international visitors

Travel and tourism videos do sometimes go viral – just ask Air New Zealand – but, while we applaud DOT’s originality and giving tourism workers their due recognition, this ain’t one of them.

Maybe that’s not a problem, though, because tourism appears to have a bright future in the Philippines, which relaxed its Covid restrictions and reopened on February 10 to citizens from most countries. (Visitors must still register for the One Health Pass before arrival, have proof of vaccination and be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test result.)

“We forecast an average annual growth rate of 6.7 per cent over the next 10 years, exceeding the expected [Philippines’] overall economy average growth rate of just 5.6 per cent,” said World Travel & Tourism Council president and chief executive Julia Simpson, at the 21st WTTC Global Summit, held in the Philippine capital, Manila, on April 20.

“We also forecast employment will grow annually by an average of 3 per cent over the next 10 years, generating 2.9 million new jobs.”

And as we all now know, it’s the tourism workers that make the destination.

The Cave at The Edge Hotel in Bali. Photo: The Edge

The Cave at The Edge

One video that has gone viral was posted by Selphie (yes, really) Bong and features a restaurant built partially in a cave that has aroused the interest of the authorities on Bali.

“The Cave is part of The Edge Hotel, which is on Pura Goa Lempeh Street in Pecatu Village,” reports Coconuts Bali. “Bong posted a clip about the dining place earlier this month on her TikTok, explaining that the cave has existed for millions of years.”

Online commentators immediately began to worry about environmental damage. “Some pointed out that the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites might collapse with human interference, and the restaurant itself may be at risk of the geological formation caving in.”

In response, South Kuta district chief Ketut Gede Arta sprang into action. He said he hadn’t previously heard of the cave restaurant, which has reportedly been in operation since 2013, and didn’t know whether it had the relevant permits, so he has sent Public Order Agency officers in to investigate.

Yes, we know it’s been raining in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, thank you. Photo: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A weather eye

A good spot by Ho Chi Minh City-based writer Michael Tatarski, who tweeted, “does that need to be a quote?”, in response to a July 13 VnExpress newspaper report headlined, “Stranded tourists in Phu Quoc struggle as bad weather disrupts travel”.

The article quotes Australian Sarah Loxley, who was among more than 2,000 foreign tourists stuck on the Vietnamese holiday island. The sum total of her insight into the situation runs to just three words: “Lots of rain.”