An entire year has passed since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown was first declared in the Philippines. While foreigners with only tourist visas still cannot enter the country, the loosening of restrictions on domestic travel is a good sign. These include doing away with the blanket testing and quarantine requirements for Filipino domestic travelers wishing to enter a province or city, and the opening of tourism sites, parks, cinemas, museums and cultural centers subject to rules imposed by local governments.
Reopening for local tourists and international promotion campaign
Many are itching to travel, wanting to get a break from the monotony of being at home or to reconnect with loved ones. The Philippines ticks all the right boxes as a travel destination – culture, food, beaches and adventure, among others. Since domestic tourism was restarted in September 2020, more and more of the country’s top attractions have reopened for local tourists including Boracay, Coron, El Nido, Puerto Princesa, Siargao, Bohol, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Baguio, among others. The Philippines has continuously been receiving international recognition for its destinations, and internationally recognized protocols for safe travel have been implemented.
The Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) has in fact been active of late promoting the country’s destinations in anticipation of the eventual return of foreign tourists. Last March 9 to 12, the DOT’s Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), headed by its Chief Operating Officer (COO) Atty. Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, led a delegation of 25 Philippine private sector co-exhibitors, representing 10 tour operators and 15 hotels and resorts, in the hybrid event of the International Tourismus Börse (ITB) NOW! Berlin. Among the delegation’s activities was the Exhibitor Presentation on Sustainability by TPB COO Velasco-Allones, Mr. Boboi Costas of Grassroots Travel and Mr. Raf Dionisio of MAD Travel.
The ITB is widely known as the world’s leading travel trade fair gathering leaders and stakeholders of the global tourism industry. The activity again provided the Philippine travel trade an opportunity to meet with relevant decision makers from new and existing tourism markets across Europe.
Deputy Speaker Legarda leads advocacy for stronger tourism promotion efforts
The importance of intensifying the promotion of the Philippines as a premier tourism destination in Europe is not lost on key Philippine government officials, including the Honorable Loren Legarda, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Representative of the Lone District of Antique provided additional resources for the programs of the Philippine Department of Tourism Office in Frankfurt (PDOT-Frankfurt) that resulted in a remarkable 13 percent increase in tourism arrivals from Germany in 2019 with a total of 103,756 visitors – a milestone figure, as this is the first time the German market breached the 100,000 visitor arrivals mark to the country. The financial augmentation was utilized for PDOT-Frankfurt’s active participation in fairs such as Museumsuferfest and LOOP Hamburg, joint promotion campaigns and familiarization trips, among others. Moreover, the Philippines was awarded Winner of the Destination Ranking 2020 of FVW, a leading travel trade publication in Germany that recognized the Philippines for having the highest growth in tourism arrivals among all the other destinations in the Southeast Asian region.
Deputy Speaker Legarda was in fact instrumental in the reopening of the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt when, during her stint as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance in the Upper House, she initiated the allotment of funds for its establishment. To the benefit of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos abroad, the three-term Senator and only female to top the Senate race twice would also champion the opening of other Philippine Foreign Service posts, including those in Copenhagen, Denmark; Houston, U.S.A.; Barcelona, Spain; Nagoya, Japan; Istanbul, Turkey, Melbourne, Australia; Rabat, Morocco and Stockholm, Sweden.
Impactful trade and cultural projects initiated by Deputy Speaker Legarda
Deputy Speaker Legarda’s advocacies would also extend to the heightening of the Philippines’ trade and cultural ties with selected international partners. With her crucial support, the Philippines’ participation was made possible in several German trade fairs, such as Ambiente, Anuga, Automechanika, Biofach and Electronica, deemed as strategic avenues to expand the country’s exports. The Deputy Speaker is also responsible for the country’s increased involvement in the Venice Art Biennale art exhibition as well as the Frankfurt Book Fair, where she is spearheading efforts for the Philippines to attain Guest-of-Honor country status in 2025.
In the people-to-people realm, it was through Deputy Speaker Legarda’s vision and initiative that made possible acclaimed projects such as the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino textile exhibit, the first activity of the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt upon its reopening in 2018. The much-praised affair, which featured lectures and demonstrations by weavers and embroiderers from the Philippines, would later evolve into a traveling exhibition with stops in several countries in Europe, U.S.A., Asia and South America.
Agreements with cultural entities and the academe were also forged under Deputy Speaker Legarda’s charge. In 2019, she witnessed the signing of the agreement between the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt and Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany for the establishment in the university of Philippines-related teaching, research and cultural production. A research project was also undertaken by Ateneo Professor Dr. Stephanie Coo entitled, “Rediscovering Philippine Material Culture in German Archives,” which is being considered for possible extension.
The promotion of Philippine studies is also the subject of an ongoing partnership with the Humboldt University in Berlin and one that is hoped to be concluded with the University of Hamburg. Other projects of the Deputy Speaker that are in the pipeline are a documentary on the sojourn of Dr. Jose Rizal in Germany and the homecoming exhibition of the textile collection at the Berlin Ethnological Museum.
Filipinos overseas are grateful for the Deputy Speaker’s hard work in pursuing their interests. It is hoped that pandemic restrictions will be lifted soon, so these projects may be pursued with renewed vigor.
The recent decision by the Philippine Government to gradually reopen several establishments and tourist attractions, albeit for domestic travelers, bodes well for the tourism sector and its recovery from the setbacks caused by the pandemic. In the meantime, everyone is urged to look into their travel plans, as soon they will again experience why it’s indeed more fun in the Philippines.