The mood was upbeat and spirits were high during the first general membership meeting of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) for the year, as stakeholders in attendance remain hopeful for local tourism in 2023.
More than having high hopes, the players in the tourism industry are willing and ready to help the sector bounce back and become one of the major pillars of the economic recovery of the Philippines.
With the theme “2023 Philippine Tourism: The Fun Hops On,” Philtoa members gathered at The Heritage Hotel Manila in early February to give updates on the state of tourism in the country, what to look forward to in the coming year, and projects that are bound to excite the domestic and international tourism market.
In the last year, there has been a surge of events, manifesting a significant movement towards the pre-pandemic heyday of the tourism industry. Going back there, however, is still a long road ahead.
“With all sectors coming alive and kicking, we’ll get there in no time. Local tourism is picking up and foreign travelers are slowly coming back. In this industry, where every guest experience is a big deal, we remain very optimistic. The waiting is over. It’s time to travel again, support local businesses, promote tourism, and explore the Philippines,” said Farid Alain Schoucair, general manager of The Heritage Hotel Manila, during his welcome remarks.
In her keynote message, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said the Department of Tourism (DOT) is confident they can all “make things happen” this year.
Delivered by Atty. Mae Elaine Bathan, DOT undersecretary for legal and special concerns and chief of staff, Frasco reported that more than two million foreign travelers visited the Philippines in 2022. For 2023, they had set a modest target of 4.8 million arrivals.
“We are very confident that we will exceed this target and convert these arrivals into spending,” Frasco said in her speech. “The DOT conducted listening tours with various stakeholders all over the country and abroad in order to ensure that the concerns of every stakeholder in the tourism industry will be addressed in the next six years.”
Fortunately for the country’s tourism industry, it’s not only the Filipinos who are increasingly exploring the Philippines.
“The Chinese tourists are back,” said Su Zhe, First Secretary of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China. “Their confidence [in traveling abroad] has been restored.”
In his talk, “Update on China Outbound Travelers,” Zhe said they expect some 80 to 85 percent of pre-pandemic Chinese tourists to travel once more this year.
He encouraged tour operators to come up with more interesting tourist products, as well as ensure the safe journey of tourists once they come back.
Sharlene Batin, the Regional Director of DOT-NCR, also previewed the agency’s “Hop On, Hop Off” initiative. It’s a program that allows tourists to explore cities in the country through dedicated buses with predetermined drop-off points.
During the event, new members of the Philtoa were inducted into the organization. Philtoa president Fe Abling-Yu thanked attendees and invited everyone to join the first-ever Philtoa-HSMA Travel Exchange 2023 or TravEx in March.