Travel is the only thing you spend on that makes you richer.
When the ocean sparkles and the sun is reborn into a million diamonds suspended on the surf…
When the food has ingredients you can’t even pronounce, but makes you speak in tongues…
When the people are new and unfamiliar but you feel at home.
Why we have wanderlust
For a significant number of Filipinos, these images are no longer the subject of fantasy or worse, social media envy. Travel has become a booming industry. With budget airlines’ expansion and even commercial airlines’ more aggressive promos, more seats are available at less cost. The domestic traffic is already high, nearly half of the population, or 43.7 million people, traveled within the country.
Why do we travel? For starters, it’s easy. We are geographically blessed. That world’s best beach with powder soft sand is just in Boracay, those limestone formations reminiscent of Lord of the Rings is just in Palawan, that mountain area that looks like the Irish slopes is up north in Batanes.
Who else has the luxury to say that one of the most biologically diverse marine sanctuaries is only a 75-minute plane ride south of Manila? Which urbanite in this planet can say that they can just take the northern expressway and hie off to a world-class surf? And best of all, who can claim to meet only smiles regardless of the place of their arrival?
That, in just a small and still understated nutshell, is the beauty of the Philippines.
But why stop at being a tourist when you could be an unofficial ambassador to the country?
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has partnered with Rappler so that we can all contribute to the task of sharing the Philippines to the world.
As a connected community with an aptitude for social media, the task of endorsing the Philippines to the rest of the globe is one that cannot be done better than by Filipinos. Even within our social circles, we can make a ripple, or better yet, a splash.
How many of us have been shaken out of a computer-screen lull by a stunning, multi-hued blue Instagram of sea and sky? Or what about that Facebook cover photo of a sunset that silently egged us to book a flight? And what about the Twitter hashtag that was a running log of your officemates’ three-day escape of food and fun?
How do we do it?
We are widely regarded as the Twitter and selfie capital of the world. Our Twitter penetration is among the highest in the world at nearly 70%. Makati was voted by TIME magazine as the no. 1 selfie city of the world.
96% percent of online Filipinos own a Facebook account and there are more mobile phones than there are people in the Philippines. Of the time Filipinos spend online, 46% are on social media platforms. and finally, image-sharing Instagram is the fastest growing application.
Even if we park the statistics, the foregone conclusion is that Filipinos love to share. We are connected and relating to people is a factory setting skill for all of us.
Combine all of these ingredients and you have the recipe for #SharePH.
We Filipinos are already adept publishers of our travel experiences. We create our own cheeky hashtags, share them among friends, so we can aggregate all of our Twitter and Instagram posts. We build virtual albums on Instagram and Tumblr, we write travelogues in the form of Facebook statuses, and we make mini-itineraries through our Twitter feed. In short, we are our own best travel guides.
Rappler is only the kickstarter and the gatherer. But ultimately, you will be the ambassador for the Philippines.
You will provide us with your stories. You will send us your photos. And you will show the world what you saw, what you ate, and what you experienced so they too may want to visit.
While platitudes have been spoken about the hospitality, the culture and the scenery of the Philippines, the statistics are not yet in our favor.
Despite being naturally endowed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the foreign visitor traffic to our country is at 3,267,542 as of August 2014 The full 2014 target for Philippine foreign visitor arrivals is 6.8 million, a seemingly high bar to reach, until you realize that neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia attracted 26.5 million and 25.7 million foreign visitors, respectively, in 2013.
A silver lining though is how the foreign tourists who have come to the Philippines continue to spend more and stay longer. It is estimated by the Department of Tourism (DOT) that a foreign tourist spent an average daily expenditure of USD 101.12 in 2013 (an 8.7% increase from 2012) for an average length of stay of 9.6 nights.
So how can you help? Just #SharePH
It’s not just about patriotism. It’s not even about bragstagram. It’s just adding a tiny little step to something that we already love to do, so that more people in the world can see what the Philippines has to offer.
Rappler will take care to gather the entries, choose the best ones, and use them as the material for the site. It could be a weekend guide, it could be a GoPro Instavid of you diving into crystal, perfectly turquoise water or of you and your friends on a zip-line in Davao.
The Philippines targets 10 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2016. With the power of every single one of you, we can make it a reality.
When you send us your selfie, or that majestic sunset, you’re not just sharing yourself. You’re sharing our country and telling people, “Hey, come over.”