It all started six years ago when two icons of our local travel industry, Ark Travel President Pat Alberto and Horizon Travel Vice-President and General Manager Raymond Tee, put their heads together to think of ways to encourage a bigger chunk of our population to travel. This potentially valuable sector shied away from traveling because of its prohibitive cost.
The idea of offering super bargains from major components of the industry surfaced after that. With their convincing power always on “full batt,” both of industry leaders were able to entice most, if not all, of the industry suppliers to market their products and services with significantly generous discounts. Needless to say, the project clicked.
So, the once-dormant greater part of the population who usually regarded travelling either by plane or by cruise ship as farthest thing from their minds, found themselves queuing up for the attractive offers made by airlines, hotels, cruise lines and resorts. That was how Travel Madness was born, getting everyone crazy over the pleasurable benefits of travelling, while making it easy on the pocket. New local and foreign destinations became popular overnight!
Travel Madness is the only Travel Expo on the second half of the year, making it ideal for people to shop around for big bargains, in preparation for their Christmas Holiday break or, for those in the academe on their semestral break. The craze-over-these travel bargains are evident every time this yearly event reels off at the SMX Convention Center. People would line up outside the venue as early as 6 a.m. even if the venue opens at 10 a.m. just to be sure they have first access to the best bargains that normally run out or get fully booked towards mid-day.
Hundreds of these eager discount-seekers take the time to go through the long queues outside the venue before opening time, as they brace themselves for gobbling up any and all of those super discounted travel packages that are not available any other time of the year.
A good example is Philippine Airlines’ Sale of the Day, where it offers a double discounted ticket to a certain destination (this changes every day), which, however, must be booked, paid for and ticketed on the same day it is offered. On the first day of this year’s Travel Madness, people went crazy over the national carrier’s offer of only $155 to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, a ticket which normally costs $800+ any other time of the year.
This year, a total of 173 exhibitors sold their wares in the cavernous halls of the SMX Convention Center, which was divided into several zones. The Sky Zone had 24 domestic and international airlines, with long, winding queues in those offering the best fares. The Star Zone had 47 travel agencies and tour operators, the queues of which competed with those of the airlines.
The Style Zone had 31 hotels and resorts, ranging from three-star to five-star. Small wonder why the ordinary Juan de la Cruz can now stay in those luxurious, de luxe properties which, because of their prohibitive rates, used to be frequented only by the rich and famous. The Ship Zone featured nine cruise line companies that have made cruising a buzzword among first-time travelers.
There were also 11 booths representing national tourist organizations of various countries, giving guests an insight into the cultural, natural and historical attractions that each of them offers. I also saw booths of three theme parks, 15 retail establishments, 14 food and beverage suppliers, five insurance companies, and one bank.
What made the organizers grinning ear-to-ear was this year’s gate receipts which tallied a total of more than 44,000 visitors during the three-day event. What made travel bugs even happier is the fact that, with Travel Madness, they now have a yearly source of travel bargains, certainly a big help when one is intent in ticking off items in his bucket list.
I’m excited at the prospect of having new, extremely affordable destinations unveiled before me in this yearly event, which poses this question in my mind---When will they sell a round-trip ticket to the moon? Now, that’s really pushing this travel craze to a higher, galactic level! Anybody coming along?
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