On track

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star
On track
Latest data from UNWTO revealed that around 975 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September 2023, an increase of 38 percent from the same period last year.
STAR / File

International tourism is expected to recover almost 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, according to the UN World Trade Organization (UNWTO).

Latest data from UNWTO revealed that around 975 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September 2023, an increase of 38 percent from the same period last year.

Tourism recovered 87 percent of pre-pandemic levels during the January-September 2023 period, putting the sector on course to recover almost 90 percent by yearend, the report said.

The newest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed that world destinations welcomed 22 percent more international tourists in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2022, reflecting a strong Northern Hemisphere summer season.

International tourist arrivals reached 91 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter, increasing to 92 percent in July which is considered the best month so far since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, international tourism receipts are expected to reach $1.4 trillion in 2023, or 93 percent of the $1.5 trillion earned by destinations in 2019, UNWTO said.

According to UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili, international tourism has almost completely recovered from the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 with many destinations reaching or even exceeding pre-pandemic arrivals and receipts, which is critical for destinations, businesses, and communities where the sector is a major lifeline.

Asia and the Pacific reached 62 percent of pre-pandemic levels due to slower reopening to international travel but performance among subregions is mixed, with South Asia recovering 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker meanwhile detailed a strong recovery in air passenger numbers and tourist accommodation occupancy levels.

Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco recently disclosed that the country has officially exceeded its full-year target of 4.8 million international visitor arrivals. Of these, South Korea contributed the highest at 1.27 million or 26.5 percent of the total, followed by the US with 924,409 and Japan with 323,029.

The tourism department is looking at surpassing five million foreign arrivals before yearend.

Going strong at 30

It is with great pride that I am writing about my former mergers and acquisitions professor and bar examiner in tax law.

Atty. Lily Gruba, formerly associate dean of the Ateneo de Manila School of Law, is known not only for her contributions to the academe (she is currently the executive director of the Fr. Joaquin Bernas SJ Institute for Continuing Legal Education at the Ateneo Law School), she is also an esteemed practitioner in the field of taxation, commercial law, banking and finance, M&A, cross-border transactions, to name a few.

She is also the founding partner and senior partner of Gruba Law which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

In her speech, she told the story of how the then Zambrano Gruba started as a small law firm in 1993 run by two determined women. Together with two associates, they were lent a one-room office Solidbank building in Makati by then bank president Sonny Vistan, who was Atty Lily’s former mentor and boss at Landbank. It was from Sony that she acquired a liking for the banking practice.

In 1999, Atty Lily assumed the position of undersecretary of the Department of Finance and the law firm was renamed Zambrano & Associates. In 2001, she rejoined the firm which was renamed Zambrano & Gruba Law Offices. Tax law became the core practice of the company. In 2009, the firm was able to establish a strong tax law record which led to its inclusion in Asia Pacific’s Legal500 Tax and subsequently its entry into the multinational client market.

In 2012, the firm underwent rebranding to become Zambrano Gruba Caganda & Advincula (ZGLaw).

The firm continued to receive accolades and rankings. The International Tax Review has awarded it as Tax Disputes and Litigation Firm of the Year while World Tax ranked it Tier 1 in tax controversy and Tier 2 in general corporate. Global Law Experts has named it Private M&A Law Firm of the Year in the Philippines and as Commercial Litigation Law Firm of the Year, Asian Legal Business as tax and trusts law firm of the year, to name a few. This does not include the recognitions that the partners have individually received.

During the anniversary, Atty Lily thanked a number of people who helped the law firm, including Father Joaquin Bernas who served as the firm’s conscience, inspiration and guiding example and as of counsel, Secretary Jose Pardo who was her mentor during her stint at the finance department, managing partner Atty Anjo Caganda who joined in 1996 and Atty Jack Advincula in 1998 who have helped steer the firm from being a small and mostly litigation firm to one with a broad and diverse practice locally and internationally, among others.

Atty Lily likewise thanked some of their clients including prominent families in Philippine business and their alliance partner Wong Partnership of Singapore.

She also took a moment to honor the memory of her colleague and friend Daisy Zambrano who was instrumental in the founding of the firm and whose passion for the law was unparalleled.

From a team of two, Gruba Law is now 40 strong and still growing.

In 2023, IFLR 1000 recognized the firm as notable in banking, capital markets. Atty Lily was acknowledged by Legal500 as a leading individual in tax and Attys. Jack and Coby Melo in banking and finance. Atty Jack and Atty Anjo were likewise inducted into the hall of fame in tax and so was Atty Coby and other partners.

The list of recognitions is growing longer for Gruba Law.



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