It’s been two years since we, at the Pacific Asia Travel Association, conducted our Business Assemblies face-to-face. So, now that the Pandemic Alert Level has been reduced to the barest minimum, we decided that it was time to do our event in-person, bring life back to it, and pose the all-important question that all of us in the travel industry have in our minds.
We made our meeting hybrid because some of our members are still being very careful about getting exposed to crowds and busy places. So, the spacious Ballroom of Park Inn by Radisson North EDSA looked like a photographer’s studio, with all the accouterments needed in transmitting the event live to those who preferred to watch it from their homes. This was made possible with the help of the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Meegee Yap.
Starting our event with his inspirational message, we invited Tourism Undersecretary Woodrow Maquiling, Jr., who is the most visible Tourism officer these days. Not only does he crisscross Metro Manila on any given day, you also see him in various parts of the archipelago within a span of 24 hours. What energy! But, he really is enthused about getting everybody revved up for the much-awaited re-start of our industry.
At our assembly, he urged all of us, stakeholders in the industry, to do what we can to “keep traveling alive” as the Tourism Department will do what it can to keep our country a safe, fun, and competitive destination. He suggested that we extend this “catchy” invitation to our friends abroad and potential customers from other countries— “It’s more fun with YOU in the Philippines.”
He also shared with us World Tourism Organization’s estimate that the pre-pandemic volume of tourists would probably be experienced in 2024 so, meantime, we have to find other ways to earn our keep. I would think that we would hit two birds with one stone if we push for domestic tourism—it would re-introduce our beautiful natural attractions to our citizenry and re-ignite the economy of our local communities.
Our guest speaker, Samuel David, International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Country Manager for the Philippines, shared with us some interesting facts gathered from his perch. IATA is the trade association representing 290 of the world’s airlines, responsible for 82 percent of global air traffic. Pre-pandemic, the airlines ferried a total of 12.4 million passengers. By the end of this year, we would already be on the way to recovery by carrying a total of 9.4 million global travelers.
Among the landmark developments that will be responsible for our industry’s recovery are the lifting of quarantine protocols, the reopening of our borders to foreign visitors, mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, the increase in arrival quotas, and the pre-departure testing (through PCR or Antigen). Although not all markets or market sectors will recover at the same pace, the upward trend of tourist numbers gives the Industry good reason to be optimistic.
But there is one very important matter that IATA will do its best to achieve – net zero carbon emissions by 2050, to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Centigrade. Such endeavor is aimed at keeping the benefit of global connectivity for future generations. This is something that has a lasting global impact on all countries because global warming, if not checked, will certainly push our planet to the brink of disaster.
Dina May Flores, Vice-President for Sales and Marketing at Philippine Airlines, was very excited to share with us the latest developments in our national carrier, which just celebrated its 81st year in service. Having survived its recent financial debacle, the renewed airline is now brimming with new and exciting offerings for the traveling public, making it much stronger than ever, and well-positioned for the future.
Its new strategy is having hybrid flights, meaning, there’s now a bigger emphasis on cargo which, as we have seen, was never affected by the pandemic. In fact, its revenues registered a continuous increase. The airline is now developing new all-cargo markets. Added to this is the excitement of reopening their international destinations: non-stop flights to Sydney, direct flights to New York, non-stop flights to Dubai, quarantine-free travel to Singapore, non-stop flights to Vietnam, direct flights to Vancouver, non-stop flights to Riyadh and Dammam, non-stop flights to Doha and non-stop flights to Bangkok.
Adding to the significance of this business assembly was the opportunity to introduce to our members our new Vice-Chairman, Tourism Assistant Secretary Verna Buensuceso. PATA Philippines Chapter is unique because our Constitution and By-Laws dictate that our Vice-Chairman and Secretary General should be high-ranking officers of our Department of Tourism (DOT). To replace former Tourism Usec. Bong Bengzon who recently retired from DOT, Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat designated Asec. Buensuceso as our new Vice-Chairman. Our Secretary General is still Daks Gonzales, Head, Office of Product and Market Development.
It was a very encouraging and inspiring session we had with these travel industry leaders. The predominant remark we received from our members who joined in was their feeling of enthusiasm over the rekindled energy shown by all sectors of the Industry in bringing back tourism to its “old glory.”
Indeed, the tourism industry’s road to recovery will certainly be an adventure, dotted with scary occasions every now and then but, as long as all of us stakeholders join hands towards the right direction, we will be back to where we left off. So, to answer the question in this column’s banner – We’ll be riding high…with flying colors!
YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE
WHAT DO YOU CALL A PARADE OF RABBITS HOPPING BACKWARDS? A receding hare-line.
For feedback, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org