Riyadh, KSA — Maximizing her participation at the 22nd World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit: Travel for a Better Future from 28-29 November 2022, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco met with tourism decision makers from the Middle East to pitch the viability of the Philippines as a destination for visitors from the region.
The Tourism Secretary engaged in a bilateral meeting with the Saudi Vice Minister of Tourism, Her Highness Princess Haifa Al Saud, on the opportunities and potential areas of cooperation in advancing the tourism sectors of both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Philippines.
“We share in your excitement all of the prospects and possibilities for tourism in Saudi Arabia, especially with the investment in the industry…We pride ourselves in the Filipino brand of service excellence. Therefore, we would be very happy to partner with you as far as capability building and further education in terms of tourism capability development is concerned,” Secretary Frasco said during the bilateral meeting.
The two ministers agreed on formalizing their partnership with Saudi Arabia guiding the Philippines through Arabic-speaking tour guides, and in terms of developing the Halal and pilgrimage tourism portfolios, increasing direct flights, and creating an investor directory. On the other hand, the Philippines will provide hospitality and human capital development to the Kingdom’s tourism frontline.
“Saudi Arabia actually ranks number one for our Middle East source market. We see great potential in ushering in more arrivals into the Philippines…At the same time, the development and relationship is mutual, considering that there are over 800,000 Filipinos here in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, our affection for each other is longstanding, and I am very interested in furthering this relationship by formalizing an agreement specifically focused on tourism development,” Secretary Frasco stressed.
Secretary Frasco noted that Saudi Arabia is the top Middle East tourist source market for the Philippines pre-pandemic, with 43,748 arrivals in 2019. Currently, Saudi Arabia ranks 23rd with 9,424 arrivals since the Philippines reopened in February 2022.
As part of her Listening Tour, DOT Secretary Frasco also gathered travel and tourism industry leaders of the KSA on the sidelines of her official participation to the WTTC Global Summit.
She presented the country’s tourism plans and prospects under the current administration, the seven-point tourism agenda and key strategies, routes resumption and development dialogues, diversification of tourism portfolio, and the strong relationship between the Philippines and the KSA.
The attendees, who come from different top travel tour organizations and destination management companies for the Middle East including ITL World, Dnata Travel, Arjaa Travel, Al Sarh Travel, Seera, I Trip, Saudi Wings Holidays, Arabian Travelers, Elite Holidays, Ace Travel, Saudi International Travel Co., Hesen Almusafer, Fursan Travel, Arabian Company for Travellers Services, Al Shahin Travel & Tourism, and Sayar Travel & Tourism, as well as airline executives, including Philippine Airlines Country Manager for the KSA Ricky Solomon Pacquing, shared their on-the-ground travel and tourism-related insights and concerns during the meeting.
The most common topics that emerged from the discussions were the need for Philippines tourism exposure in the Kingdom, direct flights to other key gateways in the Philippines to and from Saudi Arabia, and the organization of familiarization trips for the tour and travel operators, among others.
Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia Chargé d’Affaires Rommel Romato, Tourism Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, OIC Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, Assistant Secretary Maria Rica Bueno, and Philippine Market Representative to India San Jeet also joined the said Listening Tour.
Secretary Frasco also met with Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno and talked about the strong partnership of both nations and the upcoming ASEAN Summit 2023, which will be hosted by Indonesia in February 2023. She likewise met Bulgarian Tourism Minister Ilin Dimitrov and discussed a workable alliance with the Southeastern European country.