Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon urged the newly elected officers of the Philippine Tour Operators’ Association (PHILTOA) “to provide industry leadership and tap every opportunity to be highly competitive, focused, determined and to put their darnest best foot forward for a dynamic Philippine tourism.”
Gordon was the special guest and inducting officer to the newly elected PHILTOA officers Racquel “Kelly” Boncan (Travel Edge), president; Pedro Young Jr., (Marsman Travel), 1st vice-president; Leo Picaso (Philippine Travel Bureau), 2nd vice-president; Paul Lim So (Action Holidays), secretary general; Augusto Ong (Traders Travel), treasurer; Robert Castro Jr., (PAGCOR), auditor; Robert Cocjin (Seawind Boracay), PRO; Emiliano Garchitorena (Morning Star Travel) and Erlinda Santiago (Air Philippines), trustees.
Outgoing president Christopher Felix “Perry” Alegre lll, turned over the symbolic PHILTOA flag to Boncan. He said the “changing of guards” was a welcome breather, as he will have more time to devote to his family.
Alegre is one of the travel and trade industry’s most hardworking leaders, and serving the PHILTOA, an equally resilient industry alliance, he said, was an honor.
Speaking at the recent PHILTOA general membership meeting held at the Westin Philippine Plaza, Gordon minced no words in directing the new set of PHILTOA officers to rise above mediocrity by being focused and serious in promoting the country’s tourism industry.
Gordon stressed the need for PHILTOA to team up with DOT and to make its presence felt by creating new tour packages to be highly competitive in the field.
“The world is suffering from a paradigm shift, accidents of the past and terrorism. But the world has already recovered. There are more and more people who are into travel and exotic Asian destinations are on top of their list,” Gordon said.
Gordon underscored that people want logical and economical travel packages, which PHILTOA should provide but lacks, adding that tourism is hard work and that “anything good is not easy to get.”
WOW Philippines, Gordon enthused, is one of the best tourism campaign vehicles which the PHILTOA can ride on. Clustered tour packages by land and sea, he said, will be most welcome as the industry is in dire need of prime movers and key players to stage such blitzes and tap every viable market there is.
The DOT chief cited some of the country’s best land destinations as Banaue, Ilocos, Baguio, and ferry tours to Iloilo, Dumaguete, Boracay, Siquijor, Dapitan, Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
Gordon also noted how the Philippines has lagged behind China, Thailand and Vietnam and how ironically these three countries are now much ahead of the race. As an emerging market next door, China is considered a goldmine as far as inbound travel is concerned.
“During the 50s-60s, Spain was Europe’s supplier of maids, chefs and waiters until they shifted to highlighting their natural wonders and concentrated on promoting their castles, beaches, ruins and forts. The move did a complete turn-around and earned Spain millions of visitors annually,” Gordon said.
Thus, Gordon advised PHILTOA to be serious this time in tapping all possible markets in various countries such as sailors, overseas foreign workers, veterans, retirees, and the like, to help double up the tourism figures and get the economy moving. Dollars will keep coming in as the influx does, he said.
“We have to graduate from merely service-providing to entrepreneurship. PHILTOA should internalize the tour guides and everyone concerned in the industry, which is the very essence of our past Tri-Con meetings. We need to meet regularly, just advise me when,” Gordon said.
Gordon also mentioned the recent successful launch of the historic Walled City of Intramuros, Manila as one of the department’s latest projects. “It was something that all of us took for granted but look at what we discovered – the musicality of Filipinos.”
Likewise, as the Beach Capital of Asia, the Philippines has a lot to flaunt and offer, said Gordon. Aside from Boracay, some of our best beaches include the ones in Bohol, Puerto Galera and Palawan.
Gordon also gave PHILTOA a tip, “I’m opening up places for historical pictures and tours that will feature the likes of Ninoy Aquino and Diokno. And here is where we need your group – to provide leadership. And I want to see you come up with new packages such as tours of music in Malate, Makati and Intramuros.
However, Gordon expressed confidence that the new PHILTOA officers will be able to sustain continuity of past to present projects, seek higher goals to beat competition and assist the DOT in its goal to buffer the country’s economy via the tourism industry.