PHL hotels, tour operators team up to reverse pandemic losses

Cooperation is key for the Philippines to effectively jumpstart the tourism industry’s full recovery, according to stakeholders.

“We need each other to create packages and good offerings for our clients, so we came up with this kind of project,” Fe Abling-Yu, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), said at a media briefing on Tuesday, the start of a two-day travel trade event at the Manila Marriott Hotel. 

The Travel Exchange is an event that facilitates business-to-business transactions by bringing together 105 buyers (tour operators and travel agencies) and 87 sellers (hotels and resorts).

Last year, it was a small-scale effort that involved only hotels and resorts affiliated with PHILTOA.

According to Loleth G. So, the president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), the event is anticipated to have a bigger impact on the tourism sector this year as it unites the extensive networks of both associations.

“This is the perfect time to do it. Everything is starting to come back, the global market is starting to open, and domestic travel is strong … If we work together, we can definitely make tourism come back faster,” she told BusinessWorld.

According to the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), 2022 was a banner year for the Philippines as it saw over 2.6 million international arrivals, far exceeding the government’s 1.7 million target.

The Department of Tourism is targeting 4.8 million international visitors this year, still well below the 8.26 million international arrivals posted in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.

Tourism contributed 12.7% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, based on data from the local statistics authority. This shrank to 5.2% of GDP in 2021, reflecting the impact of the pandemic.

Aside from utilizing partnerships among the hotels and tours sectors and the government to sustain these numbers, the tourism industry must also continuously improve sustainability efforts, said TPB Chief Operating Officer Maria Margarita M. Nograles.

“For the next five years, sustainability will be at the forefront of the requirements of tourists,” she said in her opening speech. “It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are able to be at the level that global standards expect from tourist destinations.”

Sustainable tourism involves practices like reducing carbon footprint by sourcing from local materials, employing energy saving methods, recycling waste, and engagement with local communities.

Ms. Abling-Yu said that hotels and tours sectors can cooperate to improve local tourism in every way. This includes special accommodations packages and tour offers that encapsulate a destination’s local flavor, since many HSMA and PHILTOA members possess expertise in creating such experiences.

“Over the course of these two days, many business transactions can take place. Both buyers and sellers will be happy about closing many deals and bookings, which in turn will improve the tourism industry,” she said. — Brontë H. Lacsamana