TPB trailblazes with its first hybrid B2B event in Bohol

The Philippine Star
TPB trailblazes with its first hybrid B2B event in Bohol
TPB COO Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones (2nd from left), Bohol Governor Arthur Yap (2nd from right) DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito Bengzon, Jr. (right) and DOT Assistant Secretary for Product and Market Development Verna Buensuceso (left) during the opening ceremony of PHITEX 2020 in Bellevue Panglao, Bohol with Lumad Napoanon Dancers.

MANILA, Philippines — The change in the scenario was much welcome. After months in lockdown, who wouldn’t welcome the thought of seeing the vast Philippine sky, sea and sand again?

Thus 53 delegates found themselves on a flight to Panglao, Bohol, buoyed by the leap that the tourism industry was taking to a restart: the first-ever hybrid event in the country, the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2020 held last September 22 to 24.

While the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines, the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), has been organizing PHITEX since 1996, this year, they set out to transition the biggest government-organized travel trade event to a virtual platform and actual events in Bohol. A risky decision, some might say, while the pandemic is still ongoing. Nevertheless, it was made in consideration of the tourism sector’s patriotic duty to initiate efforts towards recovery.

“We pivoted this year’s PHITEX to convey the message that we always mean business even as we journey on through unusual times, with not the usual challenges,” said Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, chief operating officer of TPB. “We hope that PHITEX has inspired the industry to explore all the possibilities on how we can slowly, safely, and sustainably restart tourism.”

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat during the closing ceremony of PHITEX 2020.

The virtual platform was no small feat: PHITEX gathered 122 international buyers representing 34 countries, with 345 seller delegates from 161 companies in various tourism industry subsectors. Data revealed that 84,946 engagements were made, including 9,155 business to business (B2B) sessions.

Sixteen leading tourism industry players and lawmakers were featured in discussions on strategies and innovations projected to shape the sector in the post-COVID world.  In between appointments and sessions, users were engrossed in “Philippines 360” games and quizzes on Philippine arts and culture, a specially curated virtual tour of Manila, and links to Philippine tourism videos.

As of October 7, 3,501 contacts were established, averaging 28 contacts per seller, and 1,081 leads were generated, with a 72% success rate. Moreover, 65 bookings were secured on-site, with the total projected revenues valued at over P40M.

Post-tours also awaited the delegates, showcasing Bohol’s new normal tourism products recalibrated under the visionary leadership of Governor Arthur Yap.

Post-tour at The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.

PHITEX indeed fulfilled what it set out to prove: that as long as health and safety protocols are followed, tourism can go on in the new normal, giving memorable experiences for tourists, jobs to tourism workers and allied industries, and a much-needed boost to the economy.

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