Tourism expo shows Filipino zest for travel back in overdrive
Imelda Mago and her husband had an important decision to make—she wished to go to Korea while he wanted to go on a cruise.
“We couldn’t come to an agreement; I want to go somewhere still cold,” she said.
As to the husband, it was not immediately known why he still wanted to go cruising—to think that he’s actually a seafarer employed abroad and currently on vacation.
The couple from Manila joined the throngs who flocked to SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on the opening day of Travel Trade Expo 2024 on Friday.
The huge crowd—some 50,000 people just on Day 1—provided more proof that leisure travel is indeed back with a vengeance for Filipinos.
Today is the last day of the 31st Travel Tour Expo and 9th International Travel Trade Expo 2024. The organizer, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), expects to draw up to 100,000 people to the booths during the entire three-day fair.
The PTAA, which has 550 member agencies, noted a surge in purchases of goods and services related to travel in the past six months. That’s across all age and consumer groups, the group noted.
And at the Expo, travelers were ready to spend more, hunting for deals from more than 702 booths and 200 exhibitors, including airlines, hotels, local and international tourism offices, tour operators and travel agencies.
They “can expect the best deals ever,” said PTAA president Evangeline Tankiang-Manotok. “They will be able to plan and realize where they want to go and discover destinations in the Philippines and all over the world.”
That includes destinations already popular with Filipino tourists like Korea and Japan, but also more unusual destinations like the Balkans.
Even the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea—the island group making news almost always in connection with the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China—are promoted at the expo.
The municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan province—which is part of the Spratlys—has a booth offering discounted weeklong tours for leisure travelers. Tourism officer Ken Hupanda said the first Spratlys tours in March 2023 had journalists as its first clients and later attracted more local and foreign travelers, mostly sports fishing and diving enthusiasts, according to a story posted Friday night by the Philippine News Agency.
Indeed, the possibilities seemed endless. “It’s overwhelming,” one would-be tourist was heard telling her companion.
“We at PTAA are pooling together our expertise under one roof to provide Filipino travelers with the best advice and make them realize that there are so many options for them,” said Tankiang-Manotok.
One booth had massive signs that read: “Saan aabot ang budget mo?” (How far can your budget take you?) It listed local and international destinations according to how expensive it would be to travel there.
From Korea to Taiwan
Exhibitors got creative in enticing visitors to their booths—there were activities, raffles and freebies galore.
Tourism organizations gave visitors a taste of what to expect if they chose to visit their country, bringing the joys of the travel experience to the expo.
Japan and Korea had a lot to offer in their huge pavilions. There was plenty of travel information, sure, but also lots of fun to be had. Japan National Tourism Organization invited guests to join the stamp rally to win treats from the Yummy Mochi booth or follow them on social media to get a personalized bookmark with their names written in katakana.
At the Korean Tourism Organization booth, guests tried on the “hanbok” and posed for pictures. At the Thailand booth, you could get a massage. People lined up at the Taiwan booth to try Hong Yu Man egg pancakes shaped like hearts and Taiwan’s tourism mascot OhBear.
At the Hong Kong booth, there were figures of Anna and Elsa that people could pose with—their way of promoting Hong Kong Disneyland’s new World of Frozen.
The Guam booth was offering free admission to Two Lovers Point.
At the Zamboanga del Norte booth, guests could pose for photos with models wearing traditional or historical wear.
TV personalities and content creators Jeremy Favia, Lyn Ching, Kaloy Tingcungco and Richard Carvajal hosted games and gave away goodies from Travel Warehouse Inc. and Cebu Pacific.
“Bring me a flight ticket that you bought today!” Ching announced and a woman named Maria rushed to the stage—she had just purchased a ticket to Mongolia.
The crowd also gamely participated in a trivia round, running to be the first to answer questions like, “What is the currency of Turkey?” and “What’s the most famous building in Taiwan?”
Meanwhile, at the different booths, people were making booking after booking, with some buying just airline tickets first and others purchasing full tour packages. Holy Week and Christmas holiday plans took shape on the spot.
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“It’s cheaper to buy here than online,” said All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) Jane Santos. Those who wanted to buy ANA tickets to Japan or the United States did at 10- to 12-percent off web fares through their partner travel agencies.
And there were freebies, too. “After they book, they can come back here and get freebies and they can also play our giant gachapon,” Santos said.
Other travel essentials could also be booked or purchased at the event, including hotel stays, travel insurance, pocket Wi-Fi rentals, foreign SIM cards. Even visa applications were being submitted there.
Clearly, Filipinos are ready to fly again.