World Travel Awards

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

Just recently, the Philippines was recognized as Asia’s leading dive destination as well as Asia’s leading beach destination, while Intramuros reclaimed its title as Asia’s Leading Tourist Attraction, at the 29th World Travel Awards (WTA) 2022 held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Sept. 7, 2022. Indeed, and as DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said, such awards affirm the work and sacrifice given by stakeholders and workers throughout the pandemic. A few years ago, when Spain entered into a crisis, I clearly remember how former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo firmly held her ground, keeping the Philippines afloat through her economic programs. I also recall how, in those days, from cities to “pueblos,” Spain did all they could to save a country through tourism and cultural education.

The Philippines is still, as we know, a developing country, which makes it necessary for us to promote cross-cultural awareness, provide jobs and generate income, which is demonstrated to be the most important aspect of tourism. Going back to cities and pueblos, in order for Spain to uplift their overall economy, local governments empowered their constituents to take part in promoting their own towns. In Pamplona, for example, families and individuals alike sat on their front porch and played their Spanish guitars for tourists and passersby. Such a small and simple act was their way of making people in the area feel at home, apart from it being a unique selling proposition. It also in effect brought in more tourists.

When I heard about the “Bisita Be My Guest” program, I instantly remembered my experience in Pamplona where genuinely, I felt at home, along with my relatives who were seeing this for the very first time as it was their first trip to Spain. Now that economies are opening, and after facing the unknown, recognition such as the World Travel Awards is proof of what we have to offer to the rest of the world.

The Filipino brand of hospitality is one that comes with a smile, regardless of adversity, and that is the bona fide heart that comprises every Filipino. When we see the poor giving even when they have so little to share, that in itself speaks of both our resilience and creativity. In Intramuros for example, some pedicab drivers have taken it upon themselves to tour and educate visitors of the walled city. This again is proof of how many of us can do our part to give back while making a living. Not to mention, gaining an education. It takes guts of steel and a heart of gold to do this and such an act, no matter how small, creates big benefits overall.

As a Filipino citizen, one can only feel pride winning back-to-back awards for an industry that has been hurting yet, and just like a skilled tiger who swims excellently in the water, the Filipino brand we continue to enjoy rests on the fact that we will always give more than what is expected, even in unexpected ways. With pride we congratulate our tourism frontliners. Your perseverance has made the Filipino experience simply “mágica.” Mabuhay!


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