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Philippines launches tourism campaign for tarnished Manila

MANILA, January 5, 2011 (AFP) – Philippine authorities have launched a fresh campaign to lure tourists to Manila after a deadly hostage fiasco and terror attack warnings further tarnished the national capital’s already shady image.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said the many festivals in Manila and its suburbs would be promoted as tourist attractions in 2011, in a bid to emulate the way similar celebrations in regional areas already attract tourists.

“Soon, both foreigners and locals will know the metropolis beyond being the premier gateway and capital city of the Philippines. There are special events in Metro Manila worth witnessing,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The campaign comes after a tragedy in August last year when a disgraced ex-policeman took a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in Manila, leading to the deaths of eight of them in a botched rescue operation.

The city’s image was further hurt when Australia, Britain, Canada, France, New Zealand and the United States issued advisories in November warning of an imminent terror attack in the capital.

Some of the countries downgraded their warnings after the Philippines complained, and no such attack has occurred.

Even before last year’s events, foreign tourists often bypassed or spent little time in Manila as they made their way to the idyllic beaches outside the capital.

Poor infrastructure, rundown tourist attractions, confronting poverty, corrupt police and nightmarish traffic are the some of the factors that have long contributed to foreign visitors skipping Manila.

But Lim said his department and local governments were developing the capital as a vibrant tourist destination, showcasing the various religious and arts festivals that are celebrated in the city of about 12 million people.

Such annual festivals in Manila include processions for fertility rites and infant Jesus statues, a river parade, an arts festival and a mardi gras-style celebration before Lent.

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