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PH tourism in the doldrums

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I must give credit where credit is due, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s firing of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo at the start of the week was most definitely the right thing to do.


The firing was fitting for a Tourism secretary who was not only incompetent, but the P60-million scandal involving the Department of Tourism’s ad placement in a TV show of her brother showed she also allowed at least one serious case of corruption to take place under her watch.


This week, just as news of Teo’s axing was announced, it was also learned that yet another similar case had been unearthed. The other sweetheart deal may have been the reason she was finally let go by the president.


Incidentally, Teo’s lawyer insisted that she resigned. She was not fired. If that’s what she wants to tell her kids and grandkids, fine. At least she will no longer be a burden to an already overburdened chief executive.


Teo should not have been appointed to the post in the first place. Nothing in her background suggested that she would make an able Tourism secretary. All she could show for herself was ownership of a medium-sized travel agency, at best.


In the weeks and month that followed her assumption of office, it became clear to DOT officials and employees that Teo had little to offer in terms of being able to craft creative marketing plans needed to sell the country and invite more inbound travelers.


She had no new plans and programs to speak of. Neither local nor international tourism flourished under her term. Worst of all, she took a reactive rather than proactive stance on the ills plaguing the industry. The mishandling of Boracay is but one example of the DOT’s inability to recognize a growing problem, one that ultimately blew up on Teo’s face.


Meanwhile, the Philippine tourism industry will need a new champion, hopefully one who can deliver the goods for the country.


It is a well-known fact that the Philippines lags behind its closest neighbors where tourist arrivals is concerned.  Such places as Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand bring in double or triple the number of visitors that the country is able to bring in every year.


Focusing on growing economies like China is a good move, but not at the expense of other markets.


I never liked the cocky Dick Gordon, but at least he was able to come up with the unforgettable WoW Philippines campaign when he was tourism sec. Since Gordon is such a rabid supporter of Mr. Duterte, perhaps he can be invited to again handle the tourism portfolio.


As for Wanda Teo, she should go back to the private sector and do her bit as a private citizen.


The scandal involving her siblings may, however, put a damper on the reported plan of one of them to run for senator.


For better or worse, the Tulfo brand is known nationally. Wanda’s brothers Mon, Ben and Erwin Tulfo have long been fixtures in Philippine media, in both print and broadcast.


Erwin was supposedly being eyed by the administration PDP-Laban to run for the upper chamber of Congress in the next elections. A survey tagged him as a probable winner if the elections were held today.


It is not clear what will happen now that Wanda Tulfo Teo is no longer part of the Duterte administration. Her firing – OK, let’s call it her resignation – has cast her family in a negative light, and it is not clear if the electorate will still voter for her brother Erwin, or even if that brother is willing to run for senator.


My guess is that he will not run, considering that a good number of popular media personalities had tried but failed to win in past senate races.


As for Teo, her time in public service has come to an ignominious end. She should just wish whoever succeeds her good luck, because he or she will definitely need it.

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