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Philippines pulls new tourism campaign amid porn link

MANILA, November 17, 2010 (AFP) – The Philippines said Wednesday it had pulled its latest online tourism campaign after critics panned the rebrand and warned that unwary surfers could easily end up at a porn site instead.

The site, www.beautifulpilipinas.com, was taken down on Tuesday, just a day after it was launched by the tourism department to much fanfare, said Evelyn Macayayong, interim head of the ministry’s tourist information office.

The campaign featured a candy-coloured logo including the slogan, a coconut tree, an endangered primate called a tarsier, the sun and waves.

Critics panned the decision to use the local spelling of the country’s name, warning that a similar site, www.beautifulfilipinas.com, was pornographic.

Some called for the country’s eight-year-old tourism slogan, “Wow Philippines”, to be brought back.

Posts on networking sites about the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (Philippines What a Beauty) website described it as “bland,” and “lacking punch”.

“The writeups were not thoroughly edited. There were errors, and there are even allegations of plagiarism,” admitted the tourism office’s Macayayong.

Filipino tourism industry pundit Ivan Henares wrote on his popular tourism blog, “Ivan About Town”: “I can’t understand why (we) want to get rid of a brand our country has worked so hard to build and invested so much money on.”

In response, Macayayong referred AFP to Tourism Minister Alberto Lim’s speech at Monday’s launch.

“It is a radical departure from what our neighbours are doing, and to the faint of heart, a bit risky,” Lim had said, defending the rebranding as a result of market research conducted by an unnamed major advertising firm.

Macayayong said she could not say when a revised version of the new website would be back up.

The Philippines has been struggling to shake off its image as an unsafe destination after a botched police rescue of foreign tourists seized in a bus by a dismissed policeman in August that left eight Hong Kong residents dead.

The ministry said in a statement that tourist arrivals in the eight months to August were up 15 percent from a year earlier to 2.3 million.

Lim said he was confident the ministry would attain its full-year target of 3.3 million arrivals, from just over three million in 2009, even though the government expects some fallout from the hostage fiasco.

“Even if we incur a slowdown in the months following the hostage-taking incident, we are optimistic that November and December figures will be on the rebound as historical peak periods,” Lim added.

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