(file photo)

City tourism chief Aileen Cynthia Amurao has brushed aside social media criticisms slamming as “thoughtless” her advice for people in the tourism frontlines “to prepare and adjust” to Korean and Chinese guests by learning the basics of their languages.

Speaking to the media on Monday in her office, Amurao pointed out that adjusting by learning foreign languages is not a sign of weakness or inferiority, but a strength of the tourism industry as it shows an advanced level of hospitality.

“Why do we need to adjust? Because that is part of our hospitality and we are very known for that. Kapag destination ka, dapat i-prepare mo hindi lang ‘yong mga facilities mo kundi ang pinaka-importante ay ang mga tao. Sabi ko nga we cannot stop receiving tourists from different parts of the world,” she said.

Amurao added her advice is part of the city government’s tourism promotion.

In fact, she said it is not only the business sector that should prepare and adjust to the influx of tourists but the Palaweños in general.

“Ito ay parte ng patuloy na ginagawa rin nating promotions. May dalawang tanong lang ako: ‘Ang local people ba ayaw nila na gumanda ang ating ekonomiya?’ Pangalawang tanong ko: ‘Bakit ayaw ninyo ng turista?’ Ang mga turista hinahabol ng halos lahat ng mga destinasyon, halos lahat gustong mag-bukas, gustong gayahin tayo na maging tourist destination at makakuha ng turista. Tayo naandidito na, papaalisin mo ba? Or i-i-stop ba natin? Parang mali naman ‘yon,” said Amurao.

Based on their records, Amurao said the Top 5 foreign tourists who visit the city are Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, Americans, and Europeans.

She said there is nothing wrong if those in the tourism frontlines will learn the fundamentals of Hangul and Mandarin to cater to the needs of the Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese better.

Dealing with tourists from the United States, Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy is manageable because they know how to speak the basics of English.

Amurao said the adjustment that will be contributed by the locals in preparing for the inrush of tourists is very important in the success of the tourism industry in Puerto Princesa, noting it is even a “norm” in other countries.

“Lahat ng bansa kinakailangang naghahanda para sa influx kasi tao ang nire-receive mo, iba’t-ibang nationalities ‘yan. Germans, makita mo ang mga cruise ships natin, hindi nagsa-salita ng Ingles ‘yan. Kinakailangang mag-isip at mag-innovate tayo,” she explained.

Amurao also noted that in this age of the internet, there is nothing left impossible to learn in just a single click if ever formal foreign language education is not possible yet.

“Ako nakikiusap sa publiko ano, huwag nating sarahan an gating pag-i-isip. Buksan natin, lumabas tayo sa box natin, tumulong tayo sa paraan na kung ano ‘yong puwedeng magawa natin, para sa ikauunlad ng ating turismo. Hindi puwedeng puro backward ang ating ano (thinking). Dahil sa turismo, diyan lumalago ang ating ekonomiya,” she said.