Pushing for sustainable tourism
In celebration of UN World Tourism Organization’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the Automobile Association Philippines, in cooperation with the Local Government of Quezon City and the Department of Tourism, hosted the first-ever Metro Manila Tourism Forum.
With the theme, “ASEAN: Enhancing City Tourism Destinations Towards Sustainable Development,” the event was a gathering of government officials, tourism officers, hotel officers, travel agents, tour operators, transport groups, officers from the academe, real estate developers, event organizers and many other stakeholders of our country’s Tourism industry.
The forum was designed to promote and enhance awareness of the latest global trends, statistics and master plans through discussions and interaction on current issues by a sterling line-up of speakers who are all outstanding practitioners in their respective fields of endeavor.
The Welcome Remarks of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista and the Keynote Address of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo were followed by the first Plenary Session, which discussed “Changing the Tourism Face of City Destinations for a Quality Visitor Experience.” The illustrious speakers who shared their expertise on this subject were: Imtiaz Muqbil of Travel Impact Newswire, Antonio Manila of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Oscar David Albayalde of the Philippine National Police-NCR, and Donald Patrick Lim of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.
The second Plenary Session tackled “Enhancing City Tourism Destinations’ Competitiveness Through Improved Accessibility” and had Steve Wolstenhome of Okada Manila, Raul Ignacio of Manila North Tollways Corporation, Jose Perez de Tagle of Philippine Airlines and Maria Corazon Jorda-Apo of the Department of Tourism.
I was the moderator for the third Plenary Session, which discussed “Positioning City Tourism Destinations in the ASEAN and Local Marketplace.” Gregory Duffel of Bond Asian Ventures was the Keynote Speaker. He enumerated factors needed in a successful Tourism Campaign: positioning the destination, accessibility, capacity and perception of the product, emphasizing to everyone that “It’s not what you do to the product, it’s what you do to the mind of the potential customer.”
And how is a Brand strengthened? Duffel lists these conduits: emotional, through feelings and pleasant experience; visual, through entertainment; gustatory, through culinary specialties or even street food; and digital access, meaning, connectivity. He says these complete the information that people have of the brand as these humanize and elicit beautiful stories, which will win them over because “Facts tell, but stories sell.”
Marissa Victoria Claustro, Tourism Operations Officer of the Department of Tourism discussed their National Accommodations Standards that are now in place—rating hotels, resorts, and other specialized accommodations with 1 to 5 stars. She also shared the good news that many of our de luxe hotels have adopted the ASEAN Green Hotel Standards which put value on environment policy, use of green products, collaboration with the community, human resource development, solid waste management, energy efficiency, waste water, air quality, noise pollution, and toxic chemical substances.
Rose Libongco, president of Homestay Holidays and marketing veteran of international hotel chains, discussed Tourism Marketing for Cities with these key elements: best features, attractions, history, culture, and unique offerings. These produce bountiful results, mainly, economics and pride of place. She also specified the importance of a good Marketing Plan which should be based on a well-crafted SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis.
The Chief Executive Officer and Founder of TravPax Solutions, Dror Maytal, discussed a most relevant topic of this day and age—connectivity. His 27 years of experience in online travel system business development has convinced him that going online is mandatory for travel agents, if they do not want to be overtaken by the fast-paced need for travel information required by world travelers these days. And, a city must always provide good connectivity so that its residents and visitors can easily have access to any type of information anytime.
There were many other interesting discussions that highlighted the multidimensional facets of Sustainable Tourism, which is the Industry’s buzzword these days. It certainly is a timely topic to “chew” on, by those of us in the industry.
And I hasten to add that kudos should go to Former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, who put this forum together. Her energy is enviable. Aside from organizing landmark events such as this, she has also put up the International School of Sustainable Tourism in Subic, which not only teaches students the standards of professional competence, but also provides them opportunities to network with people in the international Tourism Industry.
Certainly a jewel, Mina has been keeping our industry’s fire burning, so to speak, always seeing to it that we are familiar with the latest global Tourism trends and are at par with our neighbors in the ASEAN community. Her tireless efforts are infectious as they make us go the distance in pushing for the continuous growth of our industry.
She definitely is the “wind beneath our wings,” as we continue to push for the success of Sustainable Tourism in our country.
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