27 January 2014 – The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reported that the Philippine pavilion was well-received and applauded at the Travel Exchange (TRAVEX) of the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2014 held at the Borneo Convention Center Kuching (BCCK) in Kuching, Sarawak from January 16 to 23.

Leading the Philippine delegation composed of officials from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) is Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., who also attended the 17th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers held last January 19 to 20. Also present were 23 Philippine sellers from different parts of the country to market their tourism products and services.

The Philippine pavilion, composed of 24 booths manned by government representatives and private sellers, was the biggest one in the ASEAN booth, and the only booth with a functional second floor. The pavilion was flocked by buyers, other sellers and representatives from different ASEAN tourism ministries.

During the ATF, the Philippine delegation highlighted the gains made by Philippine tourism, particularly the success of the “it’s more fun in the Philippines” branding campaign and the developments in improving its infrastructure. The delegation also thanked the ASEAN for their solidarity and assistance to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Secretary Jimenez also announced that the DOT declared 2015 as Visit Philippines Year (VPY 2015).

“VPY 2015 will feature a calendar of events and activities that are an exciting mix of all the outstanding work of the Filipino people in painting and the graphic arts, cinema, performance art to include music, dance and theater arts, as well as the unveiling of many more historic treasures, natural wonders and unforgettable adventures,” he said.

In a luncheon he hosted for the Philippine sellers, Secretary Jimenez reminded them that Philippine tourism sector has proven that it can sustain its momentum even after the impact of two natural disasters in the Visayas—the earthquake and typhoon Yolanda. There is a need to work smart and work hard to sustain those gains.

He also said that this is a good time to be in the tourism sector, because people now consider it important to ensuring the country’s image and the sector enjoys the support of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“I just have one request to you: ensure that you ‘complete the circle’ – never leave promises unfulfilled, never leave commitments unrecorded and make sure that you have more business than when you left the Philippines,” Secretary Jimenez stated.

The Philippines also hosted a late night cocktail reception, dubbed Philippine Night on January 21, which featured talents from the Philippines, such as top singer and performer Nicole Asensio, dance group Philippine All-Stars, and Bacolod-based percussion group Gruppo Tribale.

In his welcome remarks, Embassy Charge d’Affaires (CDA), a.i. Medardo Macaraig highlighted the importance of tourism promotion in the Embassy’s economic diplomacy efforts.

“The Embassy considers tourism as a major thrust in promoting and developing Philippine-Malaysia bilateral relations. With the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, it is also high time that we look at how we can jointly promote ASEAN as a viable tourism destination,” he said.v

“We are heartened with the developments in the tourism sector, from increasing flights to more Malaysians visiting the Philippines. We hope that this will continue and more people would make the Philippines its next destination of choice,” CDA Macaraig stated.

The ATF is a cooperative regional effort to promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best. Adopting the theme “ASEAN - Advancing Tourism Together,” ATF 2014 will explore the sustainable development of tourism and look at how ASEAN’s tourism initiatives and plans can further support this decade’s mantra of “Tourism conserves, preserves and protects.” END