PHILTOA at 25

Highlighting the Magayon Festival
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

The Philippines' tourism industry started 2011 on a high note. Fresh off a 17 percent increase in the number of foreign nationals who visited the country from 2009 to 2010, our archipelago continues to attract visitors from all over the world because of its numerous vacation spots and unique attractions; despite advisories issued by a number of foreign embassies discouraging their citizens to refrain from coming to our shores.
“The Philippines went through a boom and bust cycle. Every election year creates a boom while the crises years in between creates a bust. The slower remittances from US-based Filipino workers dampened the domestic economic growth. The impact of the Great Recession in America was broad-based with the industrial sector sharply down. Fortunately, tourism activity was mildly affected,” revealed former secretary of the Budget and Management Office, Prof. Benjamin Diokno' in his keynote speech during the Philippine Tour Operators Association's (PHILTOA) 25th year anniversary forum.
In this connection, PHILTOA plans to increase the number of in-bound tourists this year by working with the Department of Tourism (DoT) in order to implement plans and strategies that will add to the DoT's existing programs. In addition, PHILTOA will be offering packages for travelers who would like to experience the Philippines beyond its usual attractions and immerse them into our cultural landscape of fiestas and festivals.
Thus, it is timely that PHILTOA focuses its sights on Bicol province's Magayon Festival that's celebrated for the entire month of April. In his speech at PHILTOA's Silver Anniversary gathering at the Dusit Thani Manila, Albay governor Joey Sarte Salceda encouraged attendees to his province's month-long celebration of life and of exploding lights. “Magayon'” which in the Bicolano dialect means “beautiful,” is a festival of an extreme re-discovery of Albay's rich history and cultural heritage through a varied demonstration of the Albayanon's talents and skills. It is a promotional showcase of the tourism assets and products of Albay province.
“The increase in the number of tourists in 2010 is a great sign for the tourism industry. There are so many beautiful places in the country that people don't know about and as part of our commitment to promote in-bound and domestic tourism, we will be aligning our programs with the DoT's marketing directions and programs for product development so we can come up with a variety of offering that caters to the current market needs of the Philippine tourism industry,” said PHILTOA president Cesar Cruz.
2011 will definitely be an exciting time for travel enthusiasts, especially with what PHILTOA has up its sleeve for them. In addition to the 22nd Philippine Travel Mart – the biggest travel expo in the country – this September, the group also has several activities for tour operators such as the Luxury Night, where they'll be unveiling the top destinations for travelers who are accustomed to the finer things in life, and the Partnering for Professionalism and Progress seminars wherein resource persons will give lectures to small and medium-sized enterprises on the areas of accommodation, tour & transport operations, as well as seminars for the front-liners of the industry, like drivers and tour guides, on how to attract clients and maintain customer relations.
They will also be creating modules and travel guides that will help visitors get around Metro Manila better. These travel guides will show inter-connectivity between cities and include recommendations for the best places to visit.
“All in all, I'm confident that this will be a great year for the tourism industry. We sincerely believe that we can achieve all of our goals by forging a strong partnership with the DoT. We're working very hard to provide travelers with a unique cultural experience and, on behalf of PHILTOA, I would like to invite everyone to support our projects,” Cruz added.
PHILTOA is a non-stock, non-profit organization comprised of tour operators and allied members actively involved in the advocacy of responsible tourism. Founded during the Independence Day celebration of 1986, its roster also includes travel agencies, hotels, resorts, transportation companies, handicraft stores, and other tourism-related establishments and associations.
The Bicol Region, on which the group's spotlight is focused at the moment, is composed of the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

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