LOCAL travel agencies and tour operators were estimated to have closed some P69 million in deals with foreign buyers at the recent Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex) 2021.

Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Ma. Anthonette Velasco-Allones told the BusinessMirror the revenues may still increase as the agency completes its interviews with the participants. She noted there were “1,417 successful appointments for the two days of business-to-business meetings, including walk-in meetings.” The TPB is the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and is tasked with organizing the annual Phitex, which was held this year from September 19 to 23.

There were 121 buyers from 32 countries, and 156 sellers, 33 of whom were onsite at the Acea Subic Beach Resort in Zambales, while 123 participated virtually. Orientours Co. Ltd. President Joebert Opulencia of the US, and Mooncake Educational Travel and Tours Managing Director Antonio Esteban were awarded top buyer and seller, respectively.

“The encouraging outcomes of our hybrid Phitex is a key step to building confidence in our ability to safely reopen MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and  Exhibitions] as a sector of tourism,” she said. “Mundane as it may sound since we constantly repeat it, we need to learn how to live and work with the Covid-19 virus and its variants. For MICE, this requires stringent adherence to protocols and our collective agility to respond to changing situations before and during the events,” she added.

“It is also evident that charting the future of MICE is a shared responsibility of government and our private sector partners and stakeholders,” said Velasco-Allones.

This is the second year Phitex has been held in hybrid mode due to the ongoing pandemic. Last year’s event was held in Panglao Island, Bohol and raised over P42 million in deals.

Cebu tourism workers get vaxxed

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat has always said vaccination is the key to the successful reopening of the country’s leisure destinations “Vaccinating our tourism frontliners is the first step in regaining what the industry has lost from the pandemic hence, protecting our stakeholders in the soonest time will help reverse these effects and recoup our tourism’s momentum,” she said last Friday as the DOT led the ceremonial vaccination for tourism industry workers in Cebu.

Prior to the pandemic, the island of Cebu (Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Bantayan Island) was the top tourism destination in the country, receiving almost 8.6 million in 2019. For Cebu City alone, arrivals that year were 2.86 million.

Of the 15,257 frontliners in the island of Cebu targeted for inoculation, some 52 percent or 7,764 received their jabs. Mandaue City already provided shots for 647 tourism workers, while Lapu-Lapu City inoculated 3,074 workers. Cebu City recorded 2,453 tourism workers received their jabs. The local government units also had started vaccination for their respective tourism frontliners.

Romulo Puyat continued to call for stronger public-private sector coordination to further speed up the coveted immunity among tourism workers. “We need every help we can get to finally overcome this crisis as this really requires a whole-of-industry approach, involving not only the government but the private sector as well,” she added.

Puyat was joined by the National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., NTF Deputy Chief Implementer Secretary Vivencio Dizon, and Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. President Alfred Reyes.

The DOT chief earlier expressed optimism that 100 percent of tourism workers in the country will be vaccinated before Christmas.

As of September 15, there were 16,441 tourism employees in DOT-accredited establishments in Cebu Island, slightly higher from the 15,233 in 2020. Also, DOT-accredited entities totaled 1,030, up from 1,004 in 20209.

Under the current government regulations, only hotels and accommodation establishments with valid DOT accreditation shall be allowed to accept guests and clients for legitimate purposes with the ongoing pandemic.

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