A First Class Philippines: Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.

The announcement of the Philippine Department of Tourism’s new slogan in 2011 received a great deal of attention, not all kind. The most severe criticism was that the slogan had been used by another country back in the 1950’s. Therefore, it did not demonstrate originality.
“It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
The slogan generated a lot of sarcasm, too, about some of the un-fun aspects of Philippine life, mainly poverty and murder.
The crucial question, it seemed to me at the time, is not whether it was original, but whether or not it would work. I wrote at the time that it seemed rich with potential.

The slogan has been brilliantly used and tourism numbers are up already. The slogan is attaching to the Philippines, and for good reason. There are a lot of fun places to visit in the Philippines if you are willing to go to natural places where there are no Disney rides or roller coasters, and in some places no Disney Hotel, either. The Philippines is indeed rich with scenery and the exotic appeal of being real.
The man in the Department of Tourism’s driver’s seat is Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. He was appointed to his position by President Aquino on September 1, 2011 subsequent to the resignation of Alberto Lim as Secretary. Here’s what President Aquino had to say about Mr. Jimenez:
  • “He’s a marketing, advertising guy and tourism I think is primarily a marketing effort because the product is already there. Merong enhancing the product that we have in the Philippines and at the end of the day, he will be informing a lot of the citizens of the world that there are such and such sites accessible, it should be visited.”[ABS-CBN News]
Now this is one of those appointments for which I do not fault President Aquino for hiring someone he knew, and was close to. You see, Mr. Jimenez ran the President’s election campaign.  The President could see the character of the man and the quality of his work. The appointment did not shortchange the Philippines in the area of capability. It strengthened it.
Mr. Jimenez had his own words to say in response to the President’s announcement of his appointment:
  • With its picturesque scenery, the Philippines should be “ . . . as easy to sell as Chickenjoy”.
Ah, a man with confidence. And humor.
He also had this to say:
  • We will “galvanize the DoT into an honest to goodness selling unit” and “ensure that the endeavor would be fulfilling and profitable for Filipinos”.
Everything I read and see about the Tourism effort makes sense. Corporate sense. One of the things that clicks is the Tourism web site. It is the opposite of the TESDA web site I panned a couple of articles ago. It is clean, it is meaningful, it works.
Here’s an example. I wanted to find a bio of Mr. Jimenez to insert into this write-up. There is NO BIO of Mr. Jimenez on the web site. This is so contrary to normal Filipino thinking that a web site should be ripe with praise for the top man, the important guy. I would guess that Mr. Jimenez figured out the web site was not about him. It was about getting tourists to the Philippines.
On visiting the site, you are not met with Mr. Jimenez’s mug shot. You are met with a slide show that splashes pretty scenes of the Philippines across your computer screen. A lead story features an attractive tourist destination, including some jewels we may not know about. And you are met with helpful links to DOT accreditation, investment guidance, tourism training for businesses, sports events in the Philippines, and so forth. It is a slick, first class job built to sell the Philippines.
As you read of the organization and plans of the Department of Tourism, you also get the impression that this program is well organized and results-oriented.
Here’s the tourism organization:
  • Office of the Secretary: The Office of the Secretary provides leadership, direction, and substance to the overall operations of the Department
  • Tourism Promotions Sector: The Tourism Promotion Sector has the primary function of promoting the Philippines as a tourist destination domestically and internationally.
  • Tourism Services and Regional Offices Sector: The Tourism Services and Regional Offices Sector is tasked to ensure the pleasant entry, stay, and exit of tourists.
  • Planning, Product Development and Coordination: The Tourism Planning, Product Development and Coordination Sector is responsible for the formulation and updating of the Tourism Master Plan
  • Internal Services Sector: The Internal Services Sector ensures the smooth and legal functioning of the operations of the Department
One piece of very smart thinking in developing the organization is the recognition that the Philippines is in some respects a land of red tape. Administrative policy barriers could suffocate the best intents of the Tourism people. Mr. Jimenez has an individual assigned specific responsibility for cutting through the red tape.
Here are some key plan elements. Do they make sense to you? They make extraordinary sense to me. The “Destination Strategy” recognizes the Philippines has a lot of jewels that need the polish that only money (investments for the long term) can provide.
  • Mission: The Department of Tourism (DOT) shall be the primary government agency charged with the responsibility to encourage, promote, and develop tourism as a major socio-economic activity to generate foreign currency and employment and to spread the benefits of tourism to both the private and public sector.
  • Destination Strategy: To achieve the projected growth in tourist numbers and expenditures over the next decade, the Central Philippines will have to move to an investment-driven strategy.
  • Tourism National Strategy Objectives:  Formulate an integrated sustainable tourism management plan for Central Philippines, identifying viable critical environmental, infrastructure and community-based projects to link and integrate the tourism development of the area.
The plan is too lengthy to replicate here, but this is a critical excerpt that shows the ordering of priorities:
  • 5.5 Product Development Policies: The main thrust of product development policy should be to upgrade and diversify the existing range of products available to the Philippines by:
  • *focusing on doing one or two attractions well in each gateway location; creating at least one “must see” attraction close to each cluster/gateway;
  • *improving access to, and information on, existing products;
  • *improving the standard of existing tour products and programs;
  • *encouraging the development of additional day visitor activities at destination areas;
  • *improving the reliability of domestic transportation services; and
  • *creating new resort, special interest tour products based on the unique competitive features of the Philippines.
The entire plan can be found at this link: Tourism Master Plan.
Who, exactly, is Mr. Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr?
You have probably seen little if him, but you have undoubtedly seen his work. He is 57 years old, a University of the Philippines graduate from the College of Fine Arts.  He has worked in advertising all his life, founding his own agency in the late 1990’s (Jimenez & Partners) and building it into the largest agency in the Philippines by the time he left in 2009 to promote the President. His wife Abby is still an executive at the agency, now called JimenezBasic. His client list has included Jollibee, Selecta Ice Cream, Safeguard Soap, San Miguel Beer, Cebu Pacific and Ivory Soap. Oh, and one guy named Aquino.
His daughter is a fashion designer named Sassa.
Make note of that, aspiring young people.
Only one child, not 10.
His father was a noted labor lawyer and an uncle was a general in the Philippine resistance during WW II, and later Ambassador to South Korea.
I like this man. He thinks smart, and corporate. He goes on my “Far Out but Better than Good Old Boys” list of presidential candidates for 2016.
I’m comfortable that tourism is in good hands. First class hands. 
Comments
5 Responses to “A First Class Philippines: Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Now if we can only get these pesky tourists to quit telling their friends what it was really like when they went, we'll be good to go.And every Philippine worker going home should definitely be included in the tourist count. That should get us some good numbers to brag about.

  2. I like cynics in the main, for they see the rumples in the stiltskins. As the world goes more modern, there is a certain measure of "boring" attached to travels that take you to this concrete palace or that. There is a certain measure of "real" attached to traveling in a junky bus and creaky boat to spend some time in a wretched shack to swim on a glorious beach and sip a rich beer as the sun casts its pinks and oranges across a big damp sky. Yeah, you may be right. The masses, especially those with kids, prefer the concrete, and if sold a purse and report back a pig's ear, tourism will fizzle like a balloon with a leak. But there are those who don't mind the roughness; indeed they appreciate it. They'll like the Philippines and report back good things. There are elegant hotels here and there on the Philippines; not enough, and that is the "investment" needed that Mr. Jimenez speaks of..The current push is selling the Philippines to Asian neighbors. It will be interesting to see how that works. Without a doubt tourism ought to be a primary economic plank for the Philippines, and Mr. Jimemez must play the hand he was dealt, shackwise. I think his program is about as good as it can get.

  3. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: the cricket)1. Hats off to the PREZ for his appointment(more later on appointments please) of a first class, top shelf, expert and professional!I hope to see more good appointments in thefuture (no more bad appointments please andkeep a few "stand-ins" available for emergencyuse!2. In the USA the tourism department is in theDepartment of Commerce…Lord knows the islandsneeds new out-of-country based clean/greeninvestors and businesses to help us achievesuccess and a healthy society! 3. I would be very, very thanksful for anytourists/traveler dollars/income-that we cangain-host/trap for any reason but criminal– if worst comes to worst the island criminals can kidnap them and hold them hostage (for tv/film/video "reality"- syndication) to help build our reputation as a progressive modern tourist destination to see real-pirates, privateers, and then become the "scourge of the china seas!note: observations on where to spend our "earned" tourist/traveler/commerce dollars andthe sad state of the "appointed" judicarysysteem in need of immediate overhaul-to comesooner than later please!With hopes of better daze for all islanders-and richer times! chirp!FOR HOPES OF A

  4. Anonymous says:

    Most Australians I know who have been to the Philippines have two main gripes: the traffic and pollution.Otherwise, they mostly seem to enjoy their stay and come out with a better appreciation of the culture and people.The younger ones love the vibrant night life of most of the capital cities. It helps that they are able to enjoy the night without someone getting overly drunk and spoiling the fun for everyone. (In Australia, drunken brawls are a common weekend occurrence. The ERs of hospitals in most city centers are at their busiest tending to the wounded, the heavily intoxicated and those who overdose on drugs during these nights).Waterbased sports such as wakeboarding, surfing and diving are also starting to draw visitors to destinations like La Union (where a number of retired Australians have taken up residence), Batangas, Camarines Sur.The older Australians, mostly male and married to Filipina wives are so taken by the "karaoke culture". They are amazed at how Filipinos can so easily let their hair down, without needing the help of a drink or two, and start belting out a tune like they were on some Idol audition. It also doesn't hurt that they are able to keep the missus and the kids happy with endless shopping and great restaurants for the fraction of what it would have cost them on a local Australian holiday. The hubby has a South American-Australian friend , who with his Filipino wife, come and visit the Philippines more often than we do and just about knows all the best places to go to. He talks about the Philippines like he was the Filipino and my husband was the one who was not.Do they also see the poverty? Of course they do, but because they do not have to live with it everyday, the tendency is to romanticize. Just today, an Australian priest who has been to the Philippines who spoke in a Filipino community gathering I was in, shared that he has found some of the happiest people he has ever seen in the slums of Manila. And these is not the first time I've heard an Australian say that.So yes, there's a segment of the tourist market who will not mind the roughshod and rugged conditions. After all, they're really just temporary inconveniences that should make for interesting stories to share with their friends and family back home.But there will also be those tourists with a view for a more escapist flavor to their holiday, like theDisney type theme parks for those who come with young kids and the one-stop Vegas like attractions for the older ones. I suspect most Asian tourists fall into this category. (judging from the places they choose when they're in Australia). I think they are also the ones who would have more to complain about the traffic and pollution.I just hope the other branches of government such as the Dept of Transport and Communication or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are doing just as well with their portfolios. What's been the feedback on those two so far? I think you may just have to keep going with your assessments of the other departments, Joe. The ones you've done so far have really been informative. Thank you for that.Cha

  5. Thanks for the perspectives, Cha. Yes, I think different people are looking for different things, and many can find the Philippines to be a wonderful, hidden (for now) jewel, and a fine adventure. DENR depresses me, but I'll look into roads and also communication. It all gets a little fractionalized, I think, because there are national, provincial and local initiatives.

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