Nathan Allen, a travel blogger from the US, had been declared persona non grata after posting some “derogatory“ remarks about the Department of Tourism last April.
Allen is the owner of the blogsite, “I Dreamed of This” and has quite a huge amount of followers. If you visit his site, you’ll actually notice how more than half of his articles are about his Philippine visit. You can tell through his articles that this man LOVES the Philippines. Unfortunately, a blog post dated April 14 included some not so flattering words which may have offended the the local tourism board, declaring him persona non grata. In his post, Nathan shares his not so good experiences in Donsol. Moreover, he shares how he felt “disappointed” after not being offered help by the local tourism office in Donsol. He then proceeds and says, “Is the DOT [Department of Tourism] just hiring members of their families who need jobs? I hope not . . . these people need to actually be qualified!”
Board Member Frank Ravanilla said how Allen’s blog having thousands of likes may have made potential tourists decide not to visit Donsol after reading his post. He further said that Allen’s post may also affect the community-based tourism activities which provides jobs and livelihood to the locals as well as income to the small business owners.
“It is rather surprising—if not ridiculous—that an experienced traveler like Allen, who seems to have gone to many countries visiting tourist destinations and promoting them, would go to Donsol without supplying himself with any information about the place he intends to visit that other tourists normally do when they make a trip to a certain place which is readily accessible in the Internet,” Ravanilla added
Allen on the other hand shares his side of the story through his Facebook page after reading about it on a local newspaper…
“I just saw this article in the Manila Bulletin. In a very confusing plot twist, it turns out that the Department Of Tourism is not actually connected to the tourism officers I encountered during my travels. Instead, these tourism officers are appointed by the LGUs, or local government units. That means that the tourism official greeting me under the official DOT banner (and the one wearing a DOT t-shirt that says “It’s More Fun In The Philippines”) is not even a part of the Department Of Tourism. This is very confusing to visitors, and if these tourism officers are not qualified to do their jobs, they are actually making the Department Of Tourism look bad.
Anyhow, confusion aside, I always try to do the right thing…and in this case I want to apologize to the DOT for pointing the finger at them. The “incident” in Donsol was a minor one, and the more important issue (which wasn’t mentioned in the paper) of putting my life at risk while snorkeling did not take place in Bicol at all. This was a national issue, not just one regarding DOT Bicol. However, the unanswered emails and inquiries sent to quite a few DOT regions (including Bicol) are something else I hoped the DOT would address. I am not the only one to mention this. I am saddened that some Filipino travelers laughed when they read that I tried to get tourism information from the official Department of Tourism. They say that Filipinos know better than to ask a government agency for information. Meanwhile, they keep sending that government agency their hard-earned tax dollars.
In my mind, if you don’t EXPECT much, you’re not going to GET much. I believe those contact emails are up on the official DOT website for a reason…I do hope there will be more focus on making sure the email addresses are still working, and that inquiries will be addressed as promptly as possible. If the DOT officials are busy (as we all are), they can just have assistants respond to the emails, thereby validating their concerns. It is only then that faith in these government agencies might begin to be restored.
Photo taken from Allen’s FB page
What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to share them in the comments below.