Travel content creation and Philippine tourism

GO NEGOSYO PILIPINAS ANGAT LAHAT! - Joey Concepcion - The Philippine Star

The week brought me an unexpected birthday gift. It is the happy news on two fronts which are foremost on my agenda these days: jobs and tourism. According to the latest report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority, employment in the Philippine tourism industry grew 6.4 percent in 2023. Today, tourism-related jobs number 6.2 million, and the sector now accounts for 12.9 percent of the country’s total employment.

This is indeed good news because the growth leverages on the two assets that we have in abundance in the Philippines: tourist attractions and manpower. That the two would have a beneficial, symbiotic relationship speaks plenty about the potential of tourism and upskilling to help the Philippines achieve sustainable, inclusive growth.

I had a chat with some of the country’s top travel content creators recently. With me were JM Banquicio, Shayne Funcion, Paolo Rigotti, Renzo Maano, Joshua Chua, Hanna Piccio, Susie Corpuz-Fazekas, Dave Christopher and Richelle Ragay. I am fascinated by this new profession because of the creative ways content creators monetize what started out as a passion project for many of them.

Just who are these content creators? They’re as varied as the destinations they feature. Some of the content creators I chatted with are from other countries, and they’ve successfully hopped from one country to another doing what they love.

Make no mistake about it. If done properly, travel content creation is hard work. I am told they spend for the travel expenses themselves, and later on can they offset their expenses through sponsored content. Building a following involves some capital outlay on their part. For the video content creators, much of their time is spent preparing their videos for posting on their channels.

YouTube seems to be a common revenue stream for the travel content creators, but it is not unheard of for some of them to sell their stills and footage as stock photos to the hotels and restaurants they visit. One creator I spoke to even had her own merchandise.

With so many travel content creators out there, the competition is fierce. The premium is on less-traveled routes, unique takes on people and culture and experiential travel in their content. Stories about people are popular fare, travel tips and, of course, food. The international vloggers find a lot of engagement when they feature Filipino festivals. There are as many angles on Philippine tourism as people are posting about their travel experiences online. In fact, if it were up to me, I would feature the beautiful islands and the beaches. I am biased because I was a diver and I love being on a boat and island-hopping. Other people would say it’s the food, or the festivals, or the trees and birds, or the people. That’s fine and it certainly helps us discover the many facets of Philippine tourism.

Being a salesman, however, I cannot help but see all this through the lens of marketing. I cannot, for example, imagine our company, RFM, putting out different messages about why Selecta Ice Cream is the best ice cream in the market. If we said different things, we would confuse the market. Is Selecta the best ice cream because it has a wide variety of flavors? The consistency in quality? The packaging? People buy ice cream for different reasons, but you should give them a reason to choose your particular brand of ice cream over another.

When we were still in the soda business, we were up against giants like Coke and Pepsi. To sell our Cosmos brands, we zeroed in on value. We offered the same refreshing qualities of the more expensive soda brands but sold it at a lower price. We reinforced that messaging in all our campaigns, and it stuck. People remembered, gave it a try and liked our product. As we had hoped, we were able to dominate the market enough for the bigger brands to make an offer for Cosmos. To me, that was a triumph of strategic brand-building.

We have to try and have a unified messaging for Philippine tourism. There has to be combined effort to promote a specific message or else we promote so many things that people will end up remembering nothing about us. What is it about the Philippines that makes it different from the other tourist destinations in the region? In the world?

But I think we’re slowly getting better at marketing the country. The campaigns over the past few years have shown that there is strategic thinking behind them. It’s just a matter of really committing to the message so that it survives change.

The travel content creators I spoke to shared so many insights during our brief chat. They have a lot to say about how and when to deliver the message. They realize the importance of working with government, not only to facilitate their gathering of content but also to sharpen the message they impart to their audiences. The successful content creators know the importance of cooperation and collaboration. I think they have a lot to contribute in creating that unified messaging for Philippine tourism. It’s a good thing that Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco is always welcoming of suggestions, in addition to being a hardworking and proactive tourism head.

I myself am constantly learning about the new channels of communication, about how fast things happen and how fickle the market has become. I hear a lot about the importance of storytelling in content creation, and my takeaway is this: we can shape storytelling in Philippine tourism. Things may be very different now in terms of execution and timing, but I can see that some principles remain the same: have a clear, unified message and stick to it.

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