by Dymphna Calica La-Putt
Given their culture of “community involvement,” Filipino Americans in the Midwest are influential partners of the Philippine government in promoting tourism.
A lot of Filipinos who live in the U.S. Midwest states are “very active” in the community, and some are active as well in local and state politics, Vernie Velarde-Morales, tourism director at the Chicago Office of the Philippine Department of Tourism observed.
“We consider Filipino Americans here as our partners or potential partners in promoting travel to the Philippines,” she said, representing a good percentage of them as accomplished professionals and involved in community affairs.
The tourism director, whose office promotes Philippine tourism in 19 states in the U.S. Central Region, shared that the new Philippines tourism campaign targets the mainstream American community.
“The focus of our efforts now is the ’Mainstream American,’ even as we continue to update and encourage the ‘Filipino American,’ or our ‘kababayan’ as co-promoters of our new campaign,” she said.
Indeed, the slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tends to advertise what non-Filipinos do not know about the Philippines. The catchy slogan has become instantly popular in social media due largely to Filipinos both in and outside the Philippines who helped spread the message.
In much the same way, Morales noted the effectiveness of Filipino Americans in the Midwest in helping promote travel to the Philippines.
Aside from Illinois, the Midwest states covered by the Philippine Tourism office in Chicago include Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Morales noted that a great number of Filipino Americans in the Midwest area are “very responsive” to issues and programs both in the United States and the Philippines.
This helpful community includes the Filipino-American media which serve as a powerful platform for the Tourism office’s many projects. “I feel blessed because media here has been very supportive of us over the years,” Morales said.
The tourism director said her office regularly disseminates news releases on developments in the Philippine tourism industry, including its campaigns and accomplishments, as well as their office’s participation in travel shows and local promotional programs and activities implemented in the Greater Chicago area and in the various cities and states they cover.
These regular e-news updates include statements that come from either the Tourism Department in Manila, developments or activities shared by the Philippine private sector, or information from her office directly. Photo releases about recently concluded events are also regularly distributed to media.
Aside from media, photos and news statements are also sent by email to the travel trade, civic and community leaders, and their partners in promotional projects implemented over the years, Morales further shared.
“We request them to pass on the word to everyone in their own databases,” she added.
Her office’s database include media, travel trade, cultural centers, businesses, professional, academic and community associations, and those that have directly supported their tourism programs over the years.
Morales said her office also accepts invitations from various Filipino-American community leaders and groups to their events, whether as a speaker or as a guest where her office sets up booths or tables dedicated to promoting travel to the Philippines.
“If we have a major Philippine tourism promotional campaign and there are big events, we either get invited automatically or we offer ourselves. In promoting major campaigns, we usually take the initiative, especially with the media. We don’t just wait,” Morales said.
In addition, their office also informs relevant travel organizations and mainstream niche groups, so they can either participate in or attend travel shows and other tourism-related events with Philippine presence, or to just let them know and be updated.
Aside from their presentations to professional travel associations and the sales calls that they do, it is during these mainstream consumer and travel trade shows that the tourism director and her team gets to promote travel to the Philippines to non-Filipinos.
“Their response or reaction range from curious to eager,” Morales said. “Our presence in travel shows encourage more travel trade and consumer interest in the country.”
“We also respond to many inquiries, requests for travel information and Philippine tourism materials, and even to feedback. We work long and late hours when needed. We do go beyond the regular call of duty… It does take a certain amount of dedication, skill, experience, and confidence to do so.”