Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo called for more efforts to attract the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions) market to the Philippines, especially in the Visayas region, in order to corner a larger share of the events and further strengthen Cebu as a proven MICE hub in the region.
Speaking during the inauguration of the International Travel Fiesta (ITF) held at the Ayala Activity Center in Cebu, the secretary pointed out that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year with the Philippines in the midst of the historic occasion.
She expressed confidence that Cebu would be more than ready to host such an event as proven by Cebu’s shining track record in housing large-scale international events as the Asian Pacific Economic Community (APEC) and the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), the latter of which drew over 14,000 local and international delegates.
“We are now bidding to host the Miss Universe pageant in January 2017, and are now in the midst of raising funds for the event. We know that we can count on the support of Cebu and the Visayas region to host the supporting events and activities of the beauty contest and highlight our country as a tourism magnet,” Teo declared.
A firm believer in the benefits of consultation, she says she will listen to various tourism stakeholders nationwide so as to solicit their inputs and incorporate these into the National Tourism Development Plan.
“I have called for the regional directors to refer to the private sector for their inputs through consultative meetings so this would constitute our collective plans and not just DOT plans. We want your contributions and suggestions for a more thorough review,” the tourism secretary revealed.
Plans for the next six months will be implemented next year and beyond. Old plans will still be revisited so these can be aligned with the priorities and inputs with the private sector.
Regarding aspirations, Teo declared that she wants a stable tourism industry with a secure baseline that is private sector-reliant, resilient versus shocks, manage risk, and anticipate shocks.
According to her, programs must be sustainable, culturally-sensitive, ecologically-responsible, economically viable, participative and transformative. The latter especially, in order to keep abreast of emerging trends so products and services can be developed to remain competitive.
Teo also assured that the DOT (Department of Tourism) will have active participation in data collection initiatives, especially in the accommodation and resort facilities, in order to have a better basis for statistics to serve as our basis for marketing investments.
The secretary and her party also went around dozens of booths to inspect their products and services. These included hotels, resorts, travel agencies, destinations, insurance agencies, airlines, and other travel-related entities.
Best islands in the world
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale beamed as she pointed out that three Philippine islands; namely Palawan, Cebu and Boracay, made the Top Ten List of Best Islands in the World of the Travel + Leisure Magazine for this year, with Palawan grabbing the topmost spot for the second year in a row and Boracay placing third.
“Cebu is sixth, having been a Top Ten placer for several years now. This adds to our sense of pride in showcasing our assets and attractions especially during this ITF which is now on its third year. And I assure you of the full support of the provincial government,” she said.
In order to cut travel time and ensure more convenience, the vice governor cited that upcoming airports will be built in Camotes and Bantayan Islands as headed by Governor Hilario “Junjun” Davide III.
“In addition, Air New Zealand will set up flights to Manila by December. We expect even more tourism arrivals then, hence the need to upgrade products and services to meet international standards,” the official said.
However, she vowed no compromise to human dignity despite the rewarding economic benefits of tourism, as she declared she would much rather have fewer arrivals over more exploited locals as there is no price to pay for lost souls.
By RICHARD RAMOS