Davao International Airport Needs Urgent Attention for the Necessary “Changes”

DAVAO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT NEEDS URGENT ATTENTION

FOR THE NECESSARY “CHANGES”

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When Rodrigo Duterte was campaigning for the presidency, the popular caveat is: “change is coming”. Now, that he is in Malacaἧan Palace finally, it has become: “change for the better”. Indeed, there are so many things that need to be changed as part of his “house cleaning”. One of them is the Davao International Airport which is in a very sorry state. Many disappointed visitors to the Davao were heard to have commented on how in the world has such a “dilapidated” terminal become an international airport? For one thing, the decrepit signage announcing “Davao International Airport” has only with four or five lighted letters. The whole terminal building needs a repainting to put it bluntly. One lane that leads to the entrance of the pre-departure is closed forcing passengers alighting from taxis, thereby, forcing them to cross two lanes before finally making it to the unglamorous gate of the pre-dep. And, worst is the constant breakdown of the aircon system making many offices inside the terminal building akin to sauna cubicles!

 

Davao is supposed to be the premier international airport in Mindanao, but there is not even a 24-hour lounge for passengers who come from neighboring cities and towns, and who are then forced to stay in cheap downtown lodging facilities for a few hours in their desire to be on the first flight the following day. The average taxi fare from the downtown area is Php250, but for humanitarian’s sake, there should be a tip of at least Php20.00 The drivers of taxis queueing outside the airport “fence” are left on their own without, at least mobile toilets. And, to think that they an integral part of the tourism industry. I was told by many drivers that they would have to look for discreet corners every time they heed the call of nature. Aside from the mobile toilet, they should be provided with at least, a sheds of tarp with benches as they patiently wait for the visitors for 24 hours. And, there’s one signage announcing the presence of a government office in the area, but the name is shamefully printed in small letters under the name of the sponsor, a soft drink company which is printed in big letters…now, I think that is wrong because government agencies are not supposed to solicit funds for promo undertakings as they are supposedly budgeted!

 

The new secretary of the Department of Tourism, Wanda Tulfo Teo should do something about the aforementioned appalling situations. There is no problem with the peace and order of Davao, especially, with the transport service because taxi drivers are generally courteous and honest. But tourism is not all about peace and honest taxi drivers. The industry is more that those, as just like in visiting a house as guest, there is a question, such as, what can a palatable food on a grandly prepared table do if the yard is full of grass, the gate and the door are dilapidated, and the lighting fixtures are out of order?

 

The international focus has been veered towards Davao where the new president came from, and also due to its reputation as the comparably most peaceful city in the Philippines, thanks to him. It is home to the highest peak in the country, Mt. Apo, at 10,311 feet above sea level: the most exotic fruit, durian: Davao coffee made from coffee beans disposed awkwardly by civets from their innards: and, not to mention the reputation of the city as the biggest in area, in the whole world at 2,444 square kilometers. The new president who is known for his hard-hitting remarks and cuss has trebled the curiosity about this city. Davao is not only about Mindanao…she now stands for the Philippines as Duterte has become synonymous to her.

Kimberly Bautista Rosel:Angel on the Road

Kimberly Bautista Rosel: Angel on the Road

By Apolinario Villalobos

Around seven in the morning of July 26, I was on my way to Divisoria, on a jeepney that plied the Mabini Street of Ermita. At the corner of Salas St., two young Koreans hailed the jeepney and showing the photo on their cellphone to the driver, asked if he was passing by the said landmark. The driver inaudibly replied which was of course, not understood by the tourists. At this point, I asked them if it was alright for me to see the landmark on their cellphone which I found to be the bastion of Intramuros, after which I gave them directions.

A young pretty lady across from where I sat, volunteered that she was on her way to Intramuros and offered to guide the couple. She told me that she was a student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) and that she had enough time to drop the two tourists where they wanted to start their walking tour. As I was impressed by her attitude which was another inspiring act, my favorite subject for blogs, I ventured if it was okey for me to write something about her, giving my “credential” in the process. Also I asked her to share with me what would transpire in the course of her angelic gesture. As the three hastily alighted for a connecting ride, all I got from the young lady was her name, “Kimberly”.  I thought she would forget all about me until I checked my facebook the following day for any message from her which I fortunately got. With it she sent a “friend request” which I immediately confirmed.

She was Kimberly Bautista Rosel. In her message, she shared that she brought the young tourists to the landmark where they wanted to start their walking tour. Not long afterwards,  pedicab drivers approached them to offer their service of a quick tour of the Walled City but were declined with her help, as the tourists knew only a sprinkling of English.  After giving more information, she left them and hastily proceeded to her class. She shared that they were wondering why I was nice to them on the jeepney to which she explained the Filipino trait of volunteerism.

At sixteen, Kimberly impressed me as having a strong personality. During our short exchange of pleasantries on the jeepney, and while talking to the tourists, she spoke with confidence and in a very good English without a ‘trying hard” twang, for which many teens are apt to do today. I was not surprised as I found later that her mother is a teacher. She also unabashedly confided that her father is a driver in a school in Pasay City. Her family hails from Nasugbu, Batangas. When I checked the photos on her facebook, I found images of a happy family.

Kimberly is the epitome of the Filipino hospitality, on which hinges the effort of the country in upholding its lure in the face of the cutthroat competition in the tourism industry. Hopefully, the two Korean tourists will tell their friends back home about their experience, that indeed, the Philippines is really a safe place where one can enjoy the sights and goodwill of the people. I firmly believe that “word of mouth” is more effective than the printed advertisements, as the former is a reliable first-hand account.

Kimberley more than advertised the country with her act. If I may add, she is also pretty, a typical dusky Filipina. How I wish there are thousands more of her kind that tourists will find along their way around the country.

The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism…signals the downfall of Philippines’ Last Hope

The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism

…signals the downfall of Philippines’ last hope

By Apolinario Villalobos

Due to the unbecoming effort of the Philippines to become a prime tourist destination in Asia, it disregarded one important factor in this kind of industry – control of infrastructure. One glaring ruthless result of this is the virtual “rape” of Boracay Island. The tiny island fringed with white sand beaches is now suffering from the onslaught of the uncontrolled rise of 5-star hotels and resorts that resulted to the pollution of its water due to overflowing septic tanks. The once pristine and clear waters are now covered with layers of muck and algae.

What happened to Boracay can happen to any other touristic destinations around the country. The problem lies in the failure of the Department of Tourism to spearhead and advocate eco-tourism which is what the Philippines, as a third-world country, needs. The people behind the desks in the offices of the agency seem to have forgotten that not all tourists require luxurious hotels and resorts. These people thought that for a destination to be attractive, it must have 5-star luxurious facilities, that is why, they keep on encouraging investors to put these up in prospective and thriving destinations.

During the 70’s, “backyard tourism”, the precursor of “eco-tourism” has been advocated, primarily, by Philippine Airlines in cooperation with travel agents and the earlier eco-oriented personnel of the Department of Tourism. The idea was to give the opportunity of managing the needs of the tourists to the locals. In line with this, establishment of comfortable facilities, not the type of multi-storied hotels and expensive resorts, were encouraged. The backyard tourism was conceptualized to preserve the exemplar setting of the destination, thereby, preventing the drastic alteration of its landscape. Also, the locals are given the chance to show what the real Filipino hospitality is like. But those former people of the agency are gone, supplanted by another set of personnel with a different outlook.

With agriculture gone because of the once rice fields giving way to malls and condo buildings, slumping fishing due to the problem with China in the West Philippine Sea, denuding of forests due to careless logging, and exhaustion of mineral deposits due to incessant ventures of foreign stake holders, the only hope left is with tourism…but at the rate another form of abuse is going, the Philippines will be finally left with nothing else that can be seriously called “industry”, and which Filipinos can be proud of.

The ASEAN in the Eyes of a Filipino…and its tourism integration program

The ASEAN in the Eyes Of a Filipino
…and its tourism integration program
By Apolinario Villalobos

The Asians who belong to countries that comprise the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have many things in common that led to their merging into a formidable conglomerate in the southeastern part of the globe. Except for the religions imposed by their Christian and Islamic aggressors, the rest of the unifying factors are steadfast in amalgamating the whole region into one strong organization.

Historically, the Filipinos came from the stock of migrants from Malaysia. And, even before the Spaniards, the Chinese and the Arabs came to the shores of the Philippines, the early Filipinos already had their own kind of government and thrive on a healthy business relation with neighboring Asian countries. In fact, the basic government unit of the Philippines, “barangay” is named after the long boat that Malaysian datus or chieftains used when they came to seek new lives on Philippine shores, when they escaped from the tyranny of their Chief Datu. The origin of the so-called indigenous pygmy inhabitants that the new settlers found are also traced to the Asian mainland when land bridges connected practically all islands in the region.

The desire among the neighboring Asians to unite was manifested when the late Philippine president, Diosdado Macapagal, initiated the organization of MAPHILINDO, composed of Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, now considered as the forerunner of the ASEAN. Had there been no political restraints, the ASEAN could have been formed much earlier. Nevertheless, with the ASEAN firmly established, the next move is the integration of its ideals and principles by the member-countries into their own.

Economically, the ASEAN is supposed to move alongside the World Trade Organization (WTO). There is a need then, to look keenly into the economic provisions that govern members of the WTO, so that they will not conflict with whatever the ASEAN provides as its own guidelines, particularly on matters that concern tariff requirements. The globalization of trade which is the main purpose of the WTO has pushed the third world countries to the corner. Not only did the WTO pummeled the small scale industries of the third world countries into uselessness, but their agriculture, as well, which should be the foundation of their economy. The questions now are: can the ASEAN provide the needed balancing factor that its members have long been in dire need of for their economic recovery? Can the ASEAN put a check on the exploitive provisions of the WTO, that have put Southeast Asian countries in a disadvantaged position? Can the ASEAN propel the economy of the region towards progress, if not at least, help recover what have been lost by the concerned Southeast Asian countries?

The grassroots of the third world countries used to depend on their small scale industries and agriculture for subsistence. Unfortunately, these basic sources of livelihood have been practically mowed down by the WTO. There is a need, then, for ASEAN to flex its muscle to trigger a self-reliant co-operation of the member- countries. If the European Union as a region can do it, why can’t the ASEAN?

On the issue of the disputed, historically so-called South China Sea, the brass aggressiveness of the China has overshadowed its purported aim to play “big brother” to the ASEAN countries, some of which lay claim to shoals and reefs. It is this “big brother” attitude that has made the Chinese openly defiant to the move of any involved country to seek mediation of a third party, but which the Philippines did. The only way for the ASEAN countries to effectively come to terms with China is to be united first, so that a synchronized move can be made. If the dispute is over the natural resources in the area, there should be a compromised agreement on how they can be fairly utilized by the involved parties. But first, the whole area should be cleared of any tangible manifestation of claim. It should be patrolled by some kind of “multinational maritime security force” composed of representatives from ASEAN countries and China which shall also initiate the guidelines as basis for negotiations. A failure on any compromising effort to unify the ASEAN members shall definitely cause a hairline crack in the organization’s foundation to the advantage of China.

The ASEAN shall tackle two issues to make it truly a daunting organization that stands for the well-being of its members – the WTO and South China Sea. Only then, can its people proudly stand with self-respect as Southeast Asians.

But for the hardy Asians, one last hope that can be tackled for economic recovery is the area of tourism. And, as mentioned in the ASEAN tourism integration program, the effort shall start with the members. Restrictions will be relaxed so that citizens of member countries of ASEAN can move around the region without much to worry about, as if they are moving around their own country.

Along this line, my own view is that there is a need for all concerned to exert greater effort in preserving the natural settings of areas to be opened to tourists. The Pattaya of Thailand and Boracay of the Philippines, as well as, other islands dotting the India Ocean, have been abused to the extreme in the name of money. They are all examples of exploitive and abusive tourism. The pristine beauty of the islands are now beyond recovery or repair in view of destroyed coral reefs, white beaches littered with different kinds of debris, septic tanks that seep, prostitution, and drugs.

Member countries of ASEAN, this time, should use “hospitality” as the centerpiece of the tourism integration program, and not “luxury”. By “hospitality”, simple pension houses, hospitality homes, dormitories, and 2-star hotels and resorts with convenient facilities can more than satisfy the requirements of fellow Asians. On the other hand, by “luxury”, there will be a need for the construction of luxurious 5-star resorts and hotels which will definitely destroy the skyline and setting of the touristic areas and give rise to prostitution and proliferation of drugs – all leading to the deterioration of the people’s values and culture.

The some kind of “backyard tourism” should be controlled by ordinances that limit the aspect of management to locals, and most importantly, not allow investment on infrastructure by foreigners. This may sound harsh, but it is the only way to show that Southeast Asians can be on their own. The foreign investors have already did their exploitation by establishing factories that employed cheap labor…and nothing happened out of such “generosity”. Instead, the foreign investors use their investments in blackmailing employees by threats of shut down and transfer to other countries, if demand for higher pay is made.

The ASEAN tourism integration program, in my view, is a brighter hope as it has initiated the removal of the barrier among the member citizens. It is the sign that many have been waiting for, that would unite the region against the exploitation of the rich and “generous” nations.

Two Serious Issues on Air Travel: Antiquated Radar System and Terminal Fee

Two Serious Issues on Air Travel:

Antiquated Radar System and

Terminal Fee

By Apolinario Villalobos

As is always with the inefficient system of the government, the problem on the antiquated radar system of the airport has been brought forth because of the concerns on landings and take off, lately. The airport authority admitted the fact that their equipment is outdated. This poses a big problem because of the current situation of the Manila airport due to its lone runway, resulting to heavy traffic for the incoming and departing flights. This is the reason why most often, flights out of Manila are always delayed, as incoming flights are given the priority for their landing resulting to the long queue of aircraft waiting for their turn to use the lone runway for take-off.

This is the problem with the government’s lack of coordination. Its Department of Tourism is energetically promoting inbound travel and travel among the locals around the country, but the aspect on convenient travel is not given attention. The leadership of the agency concerned also lacks the energy to pursue their needs. They are not assertive to let those people in the Senate and Congress – those concerned with the budget, that their service is practically at the edge of becoming inefficient, or better, useless. So many airport terminals in the country are dilapidated. Even the four terminals in Manila are in sorry state. The NAIA 1 stinks and humid, the NAIA 3 has falling ceilings and leaking pipes. As a cover-up, the MIAA came up with a brand for their service – “service with a smile”. The guy from the MIAA who appeared on TV was also wearing a big smile, as if, the concocted brand name is already a big deal – a big accomplishment! If the guy reflects the kind of people running the airports, then, the country has a big problem. What the airport needs is a reasonable budget so that the antique radar system can be improved to be at par with the demand for efficient operation, period!

 

Manila pales in comparison even with Kuala Lumpur when it comes to this aspect of travel. A television series on travel showed the hi-tech facilities of Malaysia airport, which includes even a train connected with the airport terminal for the convenience of arriving and departing passengers! And, to think that the Philippines is way ahead of Malaysia in becoming an independent country!

As if the travails of the dilapidated airport terminals are not enough, here comes the issue on the integration of the terminal fee in the purchase of the tickets. Again, the lack of sound analysis of government “intellectuals”, the so-called bright people of the President, surfaces. They seem to have forgotten the problem that such integration gave insurmountable problems to the air travel industry in the past, that is why, it was discontinued. Obviously, they are not aware of how tickets are processed and the circumstances that surround these travel documents afterwards.

The integration of terminal fee in the purchased airline ticket will add corners to the process of ticket issuance, to the detriment of the all parties, especially the passengers, because:

-if an airline ticket is issued by an authorized travel agent, the remittance will become complicated, as the inefficient Department of Tourism will be added as another party to the transaction;

-if the ticket is issued by the airline concerned, the same complication will be involved;

-if the purchased airline ticket is not used, but intended for refund, instead, the process will become more complicated, due to the inclusion of the inefficient Department of Tourism;

-the man-hour and manpower involved are bloated, as close liaising with the Department of Tourism regarding all airline ticket transactions becomes part of the process.

Considering all the mentioned red tapes, the owner of the ticket suffers at the end. Not all tickets issued are owned by locals. Some tickets are issued on the spot to foreign tourists who decide sometimes to travel to destinations that catch their fancy while traveling around the country. If due to inclement weather, they failed to use the ticket/s, they will surely have to have them refunded. Will they extend their stay in the Philippines just to go through the refund process – considering still the proven inefficiency of the Department of Tourism? Compared to the current standard procedure in which unused ticket can be refunded by the travel agent or the airline concerned, the proposed integration system will definitely spell disaster to the tourism industry!

The problem with the “bright people” in the government, lawmakers included, is that they are blubbers! In an effort to catch the limelight, for self-glorification via the media, they just talk and talk without even thinking with reason! What the airports need is an efficient system to accommodate the influx of outbound passengers paying terminal fee, by opening the counters much earlier so that passengers will be more encouraged to check in, and deploy staff to match the influx. The problem is the long queue of passengers due to the late opening of the counters for terminal fee!

These “bright” government people should take a closer look at the real and glaring state of the tourism industry with towns and cities shamelessly suffering from dilapidated airport terminals, runways pockmarked with holes, closed airports due to purportedly lack of budget, absence of convenient lodging facilities, sorry state of roads leading to their provinces, and many other urgent concerns to which budgets are supposed to find their way, instead of letting the government moneys left at the mercy of the “kawatans” – government robbers clad in barong tagalog in the Senate, Congress, and Malacaῆan who discourse about “ghost projects” – with all “honesty” and “legal fluency”!

If these government people are really concerned about the promotion of convenient travel and tourism in general, they should not threaten the already suffering air travel and tourism industry with such inutile and nonsensical idea, that can only come from a pea-brain!

The Funs in the Philippines

The “Funs” in the Philippines

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

With more than 7,000 islands and islets, the archipelagic Philippines, known for singers and international beauty title holders, birthplace of the “People Power”, thousand shoes of Imelda Marcos , and of course, Manny Pacquiao, to name a few, has many more to offer – the “funs” to make visitors wish for longer stay or future plans while yet, on their first day of arrival.

 

The Filipinos, known for their resilience savored the first major crunch in their life during the Martial Law which, ironically, saw the country enjoying the peak of tourist arrival. It was during the time that touristic structures, such as hotels, resorts, dive camps and casinos mushroomed in major cities of the country. Assured of a safe sojourn, foreign tourists flocked to the country. During the years that followed, local tourists were also encouraged to move around and enjoy their own beautiful country – its pristine white beaches, coastal waves, rivers, caves, coral reefs, islands, mountains, flora and fauna.

 

Not only are the natural endowments of the country reasons for being fun in the Philippines but its people, historical landmarks and indigenous products, too. The culture of the Filipinos is a fusion of the east and the west, making it rich and somewhat fascinating. This fusion is seen in the foods, dialects, religions and colorful ways of life.

 

Local airlines are now crisscrossing the Philippine skies to ferry both local and foreign tourists to the different islands. They are augmented by reliable ferries and cruise ships that offer irresistible fares and tour packages. Comparably, travelling around the country is much cheaper than other countries of Southeast Asia. The most compelling advantage yet, is the ease in communication because English is considered as the second language of the people. Even cigarette vendors and tricycle drivers speak English. A foreigner will never be lost while travelling around the country.

 

What is most remarkable too, is the honesty of the Filipinos. Several stories about returned bags, cameras, wallets and many more would find their way in pages of dailies or the internet. One is about the bag of a tourist left in a rig after her group finished going around the Rizal Park. The rig driver took pains in locating them which he successfully by his sheer patience. The bag was returned to the surprised tourist who lost no time in hugging the driver to show her profuse gratitude. In another story, a bag was turned over by a taxi driver to a radio station so that the broadcasters could call the attention of the owner over the airwaves. It was claimed by a tourist from Europe. These are just two of remarkable stories of honesty of Filipinos who wanted to show the world that showing such trait can be fun, too.

 

In a way, not only tourists are having fun while enjoying their stay in the country, but also the Filipinos, who by just being themselves – ever-smiling, approachable and most especially, honest, can be fun, too!

 

 

The Forgotten Role of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Air Travel and Tourism Development in the Philippines

The Forgotten Role of Philippine Airlines (PAL)

In Air Travel and Tourism Development in the Philippines

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I joined the Marketing and Sales Department of Phippine Airlines in 1975, its Public Relations Office (currently, Corporate Communications) was already actively conducting air travel familiarization tours for groups, particularly, students and civic organizations. The groups were shown the airline’s facilities at the airport (the old Domestic airport), especially, the interior of the aircrafts which at that time were DC-3, HS748, YS11, and later, BAC1-11. Fare discounts were given to frequently traveling groups and individuals. The ulterior motive here was to educate the public about the advantages, especially, the comfort of air travel.

 

The Tours and Promotions-Philippines (TPP) headed by Vic Bernardino as manager, regularly conducted surveys, practically, throughout the Philippines – from Batanes to Tawi-tawi, to gather information on their touristic attractions, and other information that could lure travelers. The airline was then servicing Tawi-tawi and Sulu, via Zamboanga, while Batanes had straight flights from Manila and on other days, via Tuguegarao. The hubs of air travel were Manila for Luzon provinces, Cebu for Visayas and some Mindanao provinces, and Davao for the rest of Mindanao provinces. The Tours and Promotions-Philippines printed and distributed a regularly updated Philippine hotel directory, and the bi-monthly TOPIC Magazine which contained information on touristic destinations, hotels, resorts, festivals, and outdoor sports, such as diving, mountain climbing, spelunking (cave exploration), trekking and birdwatching. The hotel directory and magazine were distributed among schools, hotels, organizations, embassies and consulates.

 

The Tours and Promotions-Philippines office also conceived and developed an encompassing tour program that practically covered all facets of travel – educational, convention and seminar, outdoor sports, and charter. The travel market was segmented into sectors to identify their specific needs and requirements. This was called the PALakbayan Tour Program. Coordination within the marketing and sales departments of the airline was closely knit, so that a mere phone inquiries on destinations, be they serviced by PAL or not was quickly satisfied. The staff of Tours and Promotions office were all adept about travel within the Philippines so that they were regularly requested as resource speakers in tourism forums and seminars. For free, they also helped tour and convention/seminar organizers in coming up with realistic packages that their clients could afford.

 

The The TPP, through its Representative, John Fortes, organized the PAL Mountaineering Club which promoted and developed the sport in the country. To encourage mountaineering, he organized summer climbs to well-known mountains in the country, such as, Mt. Apo (between Davao and Cotabato), Mt. Hibok-Hibok (Camiguin), Mt. Madja-as (Antique), Mt. Pulog (Benguet), Mt. Mayon (Albay), Mt. Dos Cuernos (Tuguegarao),  Mt. Kanlaon (Negros Occ.). Treks were organized for Mt. Banahaw, Mt. Makiling, and Taal. With the increasing mountaineering clubs in campuses and provinces, Mr. Fortes initiated the formation of the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP).  Simultaneously, Jun Luz, another TPP Representative handled the promotion of diving programs around the country. He was in touch with the different dive operators and groups in other countries to promote the dive sites that later graced the pages of international travel magazines and dive brochures.

 

On the other hand, Ed Buensuceso, section supervisor of TPP developed birdwatching areas around the country, an effort which brought to fore the plight of the Philippine Eagle, known before as monkety-eating eagle. He was a member of the scientific team from the United States that documented the life of the eagles, from their airborne mating to breeding. The first documentary was printed in National Geographic Magazine. Ed Buensuceso was also instrumental in the first survey of the Puerto Princesa Underground River conducted by an Australian environmentalist group. As an important information, the underground river is originally attributed to Palawan province, not Puerto Princesa city, hence, its original name was St. Paul Sub-terranean Park of Palawan. The effort of Mr. Buensuceso in developing Palawan as a tourist destination was extended to the Batak tribe which for long was not known among the rest of the Filipinos. He also spearheaded surveys of off-the-beaten-track destinations that brought to light the hidden touristc treasures of Caramoan peninsula in Bicol, the corals around the islets of Mindoro, Dumaguete and the now-famous Tubbataha Reef. The big waves of Siargao, Surigao, Aurora, and southern portion of Bicol were already captured in slides when Ed Buensuceso surveyed them for promotion in other countries whose tourists were interested in outdoor activities.

 

During the Marcos administration, there was a great demand for hotel rooms because Manila and other major cities in the provinces were peaking up as convention destinations in Asia. It was during this time that the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was built together with the rest of the facilities within the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, that included Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philtrade, and Film Center. The TPP of PAL on its part, actively worked with convention organizers to help them with their packages that included airfare discount and representation with provincial hotels for group discounts. Student groups were flown to provinces for educational tours, as well as,  international groups that were regularly flown in by PAL and other airlines. Tie-ups were made with shipping lines and bus companies for tour packages, and of course, hotels at destinations.

 

Later on, the PALakbayan tour program gave birth to “illegitimate” tour programs developed by other tourism agencies. Unfortunately, the copycats failed to bring to life the essence of the program which is founded on the “total care” of customers, specifically, the “Total Passenger Care”. By “ total”, the airline even took care of the traveller’s other needs that do not concern its direct service, such as onward booking until the day of his departure, referral to other agencies, and giving of necessary information at destination, such as things that can be done on his own.

 

Every time, the TPP staff had a chance to speak to local government officials, the latter were encouraged to organize their own “local tourism office”, to handle what we called “backyard tourism”, or local small-scale tourism business in line with the eco-tourism concept. The Department of Tourism during that time, was aware of this effort. It was explained to them that having DOT field offices in major cities was not enough. There was yet, the need to fully coordinate with local government units in the implementation or promotion of programs. PAL already recognized this need that is why its station supervisors and managers were mandated to be closely in touch with local officials, even those located far from PAL stations. Also, practically, the staff in all domestic stations played important roles as coordinators to prevent hitches, especially, in the handling of groups.

 

The energetic promotion of tourism from the end of PAL came from Mr. Ricardo Paloma, Regional Vice-President/Philippines and Guam, who initiated efforts in touching base with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and government agencies concerned about environment conservation. Practically, the DOT involved the airline in all its touristic ventures. On the other hand, the airline furnished the DOT with all the input that the staff of the TPP gathered from their surveys. Mr. Paloma conceptualized the “eco-tourism” which is the basis of the government in the promotion of local tourism today. There was much effort in preserving the laid back image of the country as a touristic destination in Asia. That early, the “tourism think tank” of PAL was apprehensive about the destruction of the natural endowments of dive spots and mountains, as are happening now. The once pristine Boracay island is now a sorry site with no reliable waste disposal system, the mountains become garbage dumps after climbs, coral “gardens” are littered with plastic bottles, etc.

 

Today, tourism industry in the country is kicking high. The unsung PALers  who did their part as conceptualizers, coordinators, guides, resource speakers, and who formed the early family of Philippine Airlines could just smile and utter a silent thank that the country’s flag carrier is still flying…and, at last, the less beaten tracks towards the hidden gems of the country are now heavily trodden by sneakers and mountaineering boots of eager tourists…