MANILA – The Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2020, the first-ever MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) event staged in the country since a lockdown in March, was a “success” after it generated P4.5 million worth of confirmed bookings for 2021 onwards.
“Nobody thought that we could pull this off and this is the first time that we are having a hybrid edition first in the world. Most of all these travel trade events are done online, it is the first time that people are actually in a tourist destination,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a virtual presser on Saturday.
She said the 32 bookings worth PHP4.5 million only came from 14 percent of the participating businesses and that revenue is expected to go up as they await reports from the remaining Philippines sellers.
“It shows that they have confidence that when they come to the Philippines, it’s safe for their tourists to come here,” she said.
Some 50 participants joined the three-day hybrid PHITEX 2020 physically in Panglao, Bohol as they engaged stakeholders virtually.
Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief operating officer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones said the event showed that the level of confidence among travelers about Philippine destinations remains high.
“Importante po ito kasi kahit ‘di pa lifted ‘yung travel restriction mayroon na tayong na-generate na bookings, ganoon ka-solid ‘yung nakikita ng ating tourists overseas (This is important because even if the travel restrictions are not yet lifted, we were able to generate bookings and this shows how tourists overseas look at the Philippines),” she said.
Bohol Governor Arthur Yap also said PHITEX 2020 reflected the feasibility of hosting MICE even amid coronavirus as long as health and safety protocols are followed.
“Our other learning is that we can actually curate the travel, we can actually control the travel, we can actually say there are no do-it-yourself (trips) because of the bubble within the bubble you have in here,” he said.
After capping off the travel exchange, Yap said the LGU is now looking at Bohol as a possible MICE destination under the new normal.
“MICE actually attracts me because you’re talking at bigger control groups and it has mass scale,” he said.
PHITEX is the country’s biggest, government-organized travel trade event which seeks to generate bookings, business deals between Philippine sellers and foreign buyers.
It is a platform where Filipino tour operators, hotels, travel agencies are able to sell products and market destinations within the country.
Bohol, its host from September 22 to 24, remains close to tourists but Romulo-Puyat is hopeful that the local government unit would approve the resumption of tourism in the province before Christmas.
“I think we’ve proven to Governor Yap that it can be done as long as it is well-coordinated with the LGU… I’m actually confident before Christmas but of course, this is up to the local government,” she said. (PNA)
After that period, his plan calls for them to reassume their loans at concessional rates afforded by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to the provincial government.
However, LBP has advised that the passage of Bayanihan 2 may make the solution easier by asking the DOT for support.
“Under Republic Act 11494 or Bayanihan 2, the DOT is ‘…directed to assist critically impacted tourism enterprises” and to provide them “loan interest rate subsidy’. And, for that purpose, the SB Corporation, under the CARES Program shall administer the loans for the DOT, ‘subject to guidelines from the DOT that shall be prepared’ for the said purposes. It is very clear that the DOT will provide the Guidelines that the SB Corporation will follow,” Yap explained to Romulo-Puyat.
It is within this provision of Bayanihan 2 Law that the governor requested Romulo-Puyat to give accredited transport operators and tourism MSMEs the chance for a breathing spell from the high-priced commercial loans they have contracted for at least 24 months.
“Let the Bayanihan 2 Funds buy-out the commercial loans and change them to “0” interest with minimal administration fees of 1 percent during these two years. We must remember that these Bayanihan Funds were legislated to help our people, not burden them, much less so can the SB Corporation be given a chance to profit from these funds through ingenious fees and charges,” according to Yap.
The governor also pointed out that the proposed scheme is not new and, in fact, has already been done by LBP for the Department of Agriculture “when, using the DA’s funds, farmers were given “0” percent loans payable in eight years for input support last March”.
“Why cannot this be done now for our tourism MSMEs and transport operators? After 24 months, the debtors can reassume paying the principal amount over the remaining life of the assets they loaned the amount for still at “0” percent interest as was done in the LBP for our farmers. That will truly be a break that these suffering tourism enterprises need,” Yap said.
Thereafter, the funds given to SB Corporation to administer for DOT must be used to develop tourism MSMEs at concessional rates where the interest rate may not be at “0” percent anymore.
This can be a subject of future discussions between DOT and the SB Corporation after aiding tourism enterprises in dire need of the assistance now, the governor added.
The provincial government is willing to counterpart as under the We Survive As One Domestic Stimulus Plan, the province has set aside a credit line of P200 million as a Surety-Guaranty Fund for MSMEs.
“We can blend these funds to afford qualified beneficiaries a true and legitimate shot at surviving this crisis over the medium term. The law is clear that the DOT must provide the Guidelines for the use of these funds and we are confident that under the able and visionary leadership of Romulo-Puyat, our tourism industry will be aided and will rise from this pandemic strengthened and enabled,” Yap said.
Furnished copies of the letter to Romulo-Puyat and Tugade are First District Rep. Edgar Chatto, Provincial Board Member Jone Jade Bautista, and Elvie Sarmiento as president of the Bohol Confederation of Tourist Transport Service Providers (BCTTS) and the members of Board of Directors and officers of BCTTS.
Also Furnished copies of the letter to Tugade are DBP President and CEO Emmanuel Herbosa, LBP President and CEO Cecilia Borromeo.