Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco emphasized the importance of the LGBTQIA+ community in Philippine and global tourism.
As part of its efforts to position the Philippines as one of Asia’s most LGBTQIA+ friendly destinations, the Department of Tourism (DOT) gathered speakers from the government, private groups, and the academe to talk about inclusivity, as it spearheaded the 1st Tourism Pride Summit on Thursday, Sept. 28 at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.
“According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there is an estimated number of over 36 million LGBTQIA+ travelers around the world. So significant is the contribution of this community that it constitutes over 200 billion (US dollars) in spending, and it is estimated to reach half a trillion US dollars by 2023,” Secretary Frasco said during her speech.
“There are a vast amount of opportunities that can be had should our country open up to include LGBTQIA+ tourism in its portfolio,” the tourism chief added.
Board Secretary of the Philippine Financial and Inter-industry Pride (PFIP) Ronil Villacorta started off the first cluster of discussions as he talked about the unique challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ professionals at work, as well as insights into how to advocate for workplace inclusivity.
Villacorta emphasized the importance of having a supportive work environment that allows LGBTQIA+ professionals to further thrive. “Diversity should not be seen as a checkbox, but an inherent strength that brings a unique perspective to the table,” Villacorta said.
University of the Philippines Diliman and Asian Institute of Tourism Assistant Professor Rielle Alcantara-Castro meanwhile expressed her joy in taking part of the summit where inclusivity in the tourism industry is given priority. “It’s good that we’re having this conversation right now, not only in the academe but in partnership with the public and private sectors of the tourism industry.“
Talking about schools adopting an inclusive curriculum, she also underscored the need to build the capacities of teaching and non-teaching staff. “Gender awareness and sensitivity has to be a culture built and embraced in an organization to foster a safe environment. We need more collaborations for research and training especially from our industry partners,” Alcantara-Castro added.
From the side of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Gender and Development Specialist II Regine Carmelli Reyes highlighted that acknowledging the needs, interests, and concerns of people with diverse SOGIESC is vital in gender and development.
“We look forward to a more vibrant and inclusive tourism where everyone is welcome regardless of gender,” Reyes said, concluding the first set of discussions.
For the second cluster, Atty. Regal Oliva, the first transgender woman president of the Cebu Lady Lawyers Association (CELLA), recounted the travel experiences of LGBTQIA+ members, highlighting the anxieties of the community—most especially our transgender folk—as they pass through immigration, border controls, and other security measures.
She further emphasized that the community can enhance the programs of the DOT in as much as the department can further assist in making travel experiences for the LGBTQIA+ community more seamless.
“Inclusivity is not just a buzzword. It’s a cornerstone of modern tourism. By embracing the LGBTQIA+ community, we tap into a wellspring of creativity, innovation, and economic potential,” she said.
Meanwhile, Girly Gravador of Cygnal Travel, who shared relevant trends regarding LGBTQIA+ travel, reiterated that the LGBTQIA+ market isn’t asking for “special treatment;” rather, they wish to be viewed as equal.
“They [want] to be marketed as part of the mainstream. Hindi po natin sila kailangan gawaan ng package na pang [LGBTQIA+] lang ito (we don’t need to make packages exclusive to them). They don’t want to be individualized,[they don’t want to be left behind]. But we can make some adjustments,” she said.
Wrapping up the second panel is Congressman Christopher de Venecia of the Fourth District of Pangasinan. A foremost figure in developing the Philippines’ creative industries, De Venecia underscored the valuable contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community in Philippine culture and creativity.
“I am not the foremost expert in terms of discussing frameworks and indicators for the pursuit of pride tourism in the country as a viable tourism product. However, I am confident that the close synergy between creative industries and tourism will provide our LGBTQIA+ community with a diverse array of offerings that will propel the country forward in the pride tourism landscape,” he shared.
He further committed to working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry to “ensure that inclusivity will be accounted for in the creation of the Creative Industry Roadmap in compliance with the Republic Act 11904 or the Philippine Creative Industries Development Act (PCIDA).”
Wrapping up the discussions is DOT OIC-Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, who reiterated that the most innovative way forward to push the aims of the summit is to work together across industries.
”We can make travel and tourism truly inclusive through convergence and collaboration,” she concluded.