Lesson from Kiti Bangkok
CTALK - Cito Beltran () - December 29, 2010 - 12:00am

While visiting the Bangkok Safari Park, I decided to conduct a walking interview with our tour guide “Kiti” about his life as a tour guide and the industry he works in.

The first thing that struck everyone in our group was that Kiti, and our other guide “Olive” may be Thais, but they knew enough Tagalog and the daily life of Pinoys to impress you. They regularly made references and comparisons between Thai locations and places in Metro Manila.

They knew of 168, Divisoria, Baguio and the fact that many Koreans have now relocated to Baguio to study English. Even more amazing is the fact that while Kiti was talking about some police corruption in Bangkok he effortlessly used the term “Kotong”.

When it came to talking about Thailand and the Philippines Kiti knows his comparative history as well. He knew that 30 years ago, Thailand lagged behind the Philippines. He also emphasized that the Philippines has more tourism related resources than Thailand has. The only difference was that the Thai Government decided to use and develop those resources to the MAX and we did not.

With the same logic of a university professor, Kiti the tour guide emphasized that before tourism became a national priority, their primary source of income was agriculture based. Today, that decision to shift priorities has resulted in creating many other industries, investments, and benefits to the people of Thailand.

Rather than derail agriculture and displace farmers, the ever-increasing demand for a wide variety of food from tourist and the industry created more consumers and income for farm owners.

The influx of tourists has made millions of people from hundreds of western and Asian countries a better understanding of Thailand and has given the country a wide exposure to foreign entrepreneurs as well multi-national companies.

As a result more companies made foreign direct investments into Thailand. In time actual transfer of offices followed, then factories were set up and finally regional headquarters finally moved to Thailand.

As a consequence of exposure, many of today’s young professionals are better trained and culturally adjusted to working and communicating with foreign entities.

This is one paradigm shift we need to make; Philippine Tourism should not be treated as a “be all and end all” industry.

Tourism should just be the “invite” or the “go see”, and while tourists begin to know and enjoy the Philippines, the rest of our cabinet secretaries and legislators can get busy making the Philippines an easier and safer place to do business in.

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As we drove through the Bangkok Safari park we saw African animals in the open, then we walked to see the “Monkey boxing show, Sea lion show, Elephant show, Giraffe feeding, the Dolphin show, etc, etc, etc.

Then it hit me, we have ALL these in the Philippines!

We have Giraffes, gazelles and zebras on Calauit Island, Palawan. We have tigers in Vigan Ilocos Sur, we have lions in Malabon and Montalban, we have Ostrich in Tanay, Tagaytay, La Union and Tarlac, we have dolphins and sea lions in Subic Bay or SBMA and Roxas blvd. we have wild pigs in Calatagan and Tarlac. We even have African Macaws, Australian Cockatoos and more courtesy of the De Dios bird farm! And THAT IS the problem.

We have everything everywhere but not enough of them in one place.

Brave souls like Manny Tangco of the Malabon Zoo and the Gaw family of Avalon Zoo have done their best to assemble them in one place, but they get no respect, much less any support from their local politicians or the national government.

Recently I received inquiries from people abroad about lessons on Racing or drift driving, that’s when it occurred to me how much lost opportunity for tourism there is in this field.

The Family of the late and great Pocholo Ramirez put up the Subic Speedway; Johnnie Tan has the Batangas Racing circuit, but were never considered as having tourism potential.

My friends JP Tuason of the Tuason racing school and David Feliciano of DMF Drift have continued to struggle against all odds to promote racing and drift driving, The Land Rover Club of the Philippines, the Land Cruiser Club and many other such groups regularly go out to the Mt. Pinatubo area and Tanay for trips. Did anybody ever realize that this could be a cool 2 in 1 trip for tourists?  

In other words, we have enough “Events and activity” material.

What we seriously need to do is embark on an INTEGRATION program and end the Lone Ranger — small time — exclusive mentality.

Aside from Integration, we seriously need an EDUCATION program to make people in the tourism industry aware and appreciative of industry economics and competition.

The Philippines needs to realize that being able to speak English does not bring in tourists. Tourists come because of an attraction. They are attracted to a location, an activity, reputation as well as prices.

It struck me when Kiti pointed out that hotel prices in the Philippines are not competitive. This is one of the reasons tourists have shorter stays. Why pay a fortune for a room you will barely stay in except to sleep?

In a good news — bad news scenario; we have a lot of potential but unless those running the show decide to talk, think and ask outside the industry box, we will remain a potential long after the PNoy administration has left the building.

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