Score travel packages, discounts at PTAA’s Travel Tour Expo on Feb. 2 to 4 at SMX

2024 is the year of travel for Filipinos.

This is the bold prediction of travel professionals and experts who have observed a surge in purchases of goods and services related to travel in the past six months, cutting across all age and income consumer groups.

“The enthusiasm for travel and to see different places once again is making for a buoyant travel industry, and we at PTAA are very much ready to cater to the demand,” says Evangeline Tankiang-Manotok, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA).

Singapore’s Marina Bay district. Banner photo of Singapore CBD by Basile Morin, Wikimedia Commons

With this, the 550-member strong PTAA is bringing back the 31st Travel Tour Expo (TTE) and the 9th International Travel Trade Expo 2024 on Feb. 2 to 4, at the SMX Convention Center Manila, Pasay. The events will feature enticing travel deals, exclusive discounts, and destination packages to provide travelers options that fit various budgets and preferences.

“We 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. PTAA’s collective wisdom and many years of experience make this possible,” adds Tankiang-Manotok.

TTE 2024 will be a marketplace for travel deal seekers as it hosts more than 200 exhibitors with 702 booths that include airlines, domestic and international travel agencies and tour operators, hotels and resorts, cruise liners and shipping, merchandisers, and more.

Renewed optimism

PTAA president Evangeline Tankiang Manotok (fourth from left) and TTE organizing chairperson Patria Chiong (fifth from left) are joined by (from left): Julie Maballo, organizing head, Airlines, Travel Agencies, and iTTE Sellers; PTAA vice president-outbound Evelyn Bondagjy; Philippine Airlines assistant vice president for passenger sales Philippines-Marissa Dimaano; UnionBank of the Philippines Cards Usage head Mellany Sy; AirSwift Transport, Inc. sales manager Anne Marie Kho; and Rowena Coloma, organizing head-Programs and Hotels & Resorts.

PTAA hopes to see a significant increase in bookings in 2024. “We see about 20 percent to 25 percent growth because the interest in travel is unprecedented,” shares Patricia Chiong, TTE 2024 chairperson. “We are very much ready for the influx of demand.”

Prior to the pandemic, the country welcomed 8.26 million international visitors in 2019, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). DOT recently announced that there were 5.4 million international tourist arrivals in 2023, exceeding their target of 4.8 million for the year. Of the 2023 arrivals, 91.8 percent or 5,003,475 are foreigners while the remaining are 447,082 overseas Filipinos. More than 25 percent or 1,439,336 of the arrivals were from South Korea, followed by the United States with 903,299 tourists (16.57 percent) visiting the country; Japan with 305,580 (5.61 percent); Australia with 266,551 (4.89 percent); and China with 263,836 (4.84 percent).

Lake Brienz in Switzerland has become a tourist magnet for fans of the Korean drama Crash Landing on You. Photo by Roland zh, Wikimedia Commons

The rise in experiential travel, sustainable tourism, and revenge travel have reshaped the travel landscape. Seeking immersive, unique experiences that go beyond traditional sightseeing, traveling has become more personalized thanks to expert advice from PTAA travel agents.

“These days, gig tripping, and set-jetting are among the bywords in the travel industry. These two have helped usher in more bookings for our members,” said Rowena V. Coloma, president and general manager of Travel Specialist Ventures, and a board member of the PTAA.

Gig tripping is when Filipino travelers go abroad to watch concerts of their favorite artists, particularly if the concert tours do not include Manila as a stop, such as Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in Singapore and Japan.

Meanwhile, set-jetting is when Filipinos go abroad to see location shoots of their favorite dramas or movies. South Korea tops the list among countries for this, with spots such as Lotte World, Namsan Tower, Itaewon, and Han River.

“We also had several tourists who went to Switzerland this year to see Lake Brienz as featured in the popular Korean drama “Crash Landing on You,” adds Coloma.

Another trend that PTAA is hoping to capitalize on is “bleisure” where business and leisure travel come together. “This is where millennials and Gen Z get to experience new places while attending conferences and on the side enjoy wellness retreats,” she explains.

PTAA hopes to promote sustainable adventures where travelers seek destinations with a commitment to responsible tourism practices like reducing carbon footprint, preserving natural resources, and supporting local communities.

New technologies

Siargao remains a favorite among local travelers. Photo by Azposse, Wikimedia Commons

TTE organizers are also maximizing new technologies that are changing the landscape of travel and combining them with the personal assistance and expertise of PTAA members-exhibitors.

“Digital platforms have made travel more accessible, convenient, and personalized, contributing to the industry’s overall growth and evolution. But at TTE, you get to speak to a travel agent who would provide you a more thorough understanding of the offers compared to what is being promoted online,” says Dominic Castillejos of Batanes Travels and Tours.

Hong Kong is one of the preferred destinations for first-time travelers. Photo by Diliff, Wikimedia Commons

The Philippines is a haven for tourists. The record number of five million international tourist arrivals in 2023 is a testament to it. “Our beaches are the best. Also, our hospitality is one of the qualities that foreigners truly enjoy,” enthuses Tankiang-Manotok. 

Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, and Siargao remain favorites among local tourists. “These are places that are on their bucket list. Batanes is slowly becoming a favorite as well. Before they go abroad they want to visit places they have never been in the country,” says Castillejos.

For international travel, among the favorites listed by first-time local travelers are Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, according to Castillejos. High-end travelers, meanwhile, opt for places in Europe, he said.

TTE 2024 is sponsored by the Tourism Promotions Board, Union Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines, AirSwift Transport, Inc., TIEZA, PLDT, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, Cebu Pacific, Millennial Resorts, The Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Mirror, Foreign Post, Travel Update, and Exhibits Today.

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