PHITEX 2019: A platform for local tourism stakeholders to sell to the world

The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines recently mounted two of the country’s biggest events, the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) and the MICE Invitational Buyers (MICECONnect) to promote the Philippines as a prime tourist destination for both leisure and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions/Events).

Now on its 18th year, PHITEX, touted as the country’s biggest government-organized travel trade event with 127 sellers and 162 buyers participating, aims to further strengthen the country’s brand image with participants promoting competitive tourism packages.

The event kicked-off with an educational seminar discussing the new trends in tourism marketing as well as marketing strategies in mature and emerging markets while remaining true to the theme, “Philippine Tourism: Trailblazing Responsible Travel and Inclusive Growth”.

The seminar featured respectable keynote speakers, namely, Thomas Graham, Co-Founder of MAD (Make A Difference) Travel, who talked about how sustainable tourism is changing the lives of people in communities; Carlos Mori Rodriguez, Chief Innovation Officer of EON The Stakeholders Relations Group, who shared insights about the new breed of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in UAE; and San Jeet, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Market Representative for India, who discussed the profile of the Indian Market.

Completing the roster of speakers were Donald Patrick Lim, Country Chief Executive Officer of Dentsu Aegis Network Philippines, who shared how the digital age is changing the tourism landscape; Mohd Akil Bin Mohd Yusof, the Deputy President of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) and Nelly Nuezca Dillera, Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC), both of whom shared points on how to cater to the Muslim market.

The main highlight of the event was the one and a half day business-to-business (B2B) session between foreign buyers and local sellers wherein tourism-related matters were discussed among the participants and doors were opened for business opportunities.

“PHITEX is mounted annually as a support for stakeholders in the travel trade industry,” says TPB COO Marie Venus Tan. “Instead of working as individual operators and sellers, we provide a platform for them to connect to hundreds of buyers from all over the world in one venue, which saves them precious time and money. The event also gives buyers a more comprehensive view of the different destinations and packages that they can sell to consumers, either as individual or bundled tours.”

But it’s not all just business. Participants got a taste of the Filipino hospitality at the welcome dinner where they were treated to a festive celebration that showcased how the Philippines is not only traditional in culture and heritage but also modern and progressive as experienced through local cuisine and delicacies like balut, palabok, and the freshest seafood dishes.

Welcoming guests at the dinner reception was no less than DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. “Both the DOT and TPB are relentlessly working to ensure that every visitor, whether for leisure or business, is given the best possible experience here in our country,” said Secretary Puyat in her opening remarks. “We began with the DOT website, improving it to make it a one-stop shop for all tourism-related information, products, and activities to help tourists who are still planning their visits, as well as those who are already here, but would need additional information.”

With DOT and TPB’s efforts to make the country a MICE destination, she also added, “Just recently, we have launched Iloilo City as a prime MICE destination with its well-equipped Iloilo Convention Center, which adds the City of Iloilo to the list of MICE-ready destinations throughout the country.”

This year, the Philippines is also strengthening its campaign for sustainable tourism in which local communities are empowered and inspired to develop their own authentic, unique, and fun attractions, taking into consideration the social, economical, and environmental impact.

“Today, we witness a shift in the tourism paradigm, a shift to motivational tourism where interest is the driver— from one that is focused on the tangible aspects of destinations to one that is focused on the intangible: the people, the culture and heritage, lifestyle, history, gastronomy, folklores, myths, art and crafts, etc.,” shared TPB COO Venus Tan.

And with very auspicious times for the country showing a 14 percent increase of foreign tourist arrivals and reaching the 5.5 million mark, she encouraged industry stakeholders and tour operators to target high spenders and offer them optimal experience to extend their stay.

“This experiential tourism journey is happening in most key destinations in the country where there is a pronounced indigenous culture that could be offered as a key experiential and immersive tourism product. Our presence here today, therefore, calls for a more sensory approach to tourism – a movement I call RISE, which stands for Responsible, Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable tourism, wherein the main goal is to ensure the Philippine story is driven by that experiential immersive context.”

The event capped off with participants being treated to curated tours in select destinations like Bicol, Sagada, Ilocos, Palawan, Boracay, Davao, Cebu, Batangas, Tagaytay and Iloilo.

Through the Philippine Travel Exchange and the efforts of its participants who are passionate and unyielding in offering and promoting unique, meaningful, and immersive tours, the Philippine is well on its way to becoming the top-of-mind destination for both leisure and MICE.