PHL receives tepid response in London travel trade event

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By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

@akosistellaBM

Special to the BusinessMirror

THIS year’s World Travel Market (WTM) in London wasn’t quite as spectacular as previous years, according to Philippine sellers, due mainly to the buyers’ wait on the country’s actual reopening to international travelers.

Gregor Zajc, general manager of Blue Horizons Travel & Tours Inc. told the BusinessMirror in an e-mail, “The main question the buyers are asking remains when the international tourists will be allowed to enter the Philippines. Hence, they are hesitant in doing future bookings until they know for sure that tourists will be allowed to travel again.”

He noted an apparent “70 percent decrease” in engagements versus WTM 2019. “There were significantly less buyers, but also less expositors. Some countries were simply missing this year.” Zajc attended the London event in person.

This was echoed by Margie Munsayac, vice president for sales and marketing at Bluewater Resorts: “My sales managers attended and they said appointments were few, and majority were OTAs , media, and press.” She expressed hope “there will be some traction from the OTA market.”

For his part, Rajah Tours Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III, an online participant, said, “We managed to get around six buyers. I think the people are experiencing virtual meeting fatigue. The quality of buyers were also not that good. My theory, it’s also because of the uncertainty in our status as to when we will reopen to foreign tourists. I think priority are those countries ready to accept tourists.”

WTM is one of the largest travel trade events in Europe, held annually in London. Prior top the pandemic, it gathered more than 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers, and international media, generating billions of dollars in travel industry contracts. This year, it was held from November 1 to 3 in ExCel, and November 7 to 9 for virtual meetings.

Travel participants from the Philippines also noted how the Philippines continues to be an expensive destination, compared to others in Southeast Asia.

“Other Southeast Asian destinations are priced more attractively than the Philippines,” said Zajc, “while the countries that have been open for a long time (e.g. Maldives) have been getting a big slice of the cake have been reporting very high occupancies ever since. Countries that followed are also experiencing a strong increase in bookings.”

He added, destinations such as Boracay, Palawan and the rest of the Visayas “remain the main selling destinations,” for their company. “People are ready to travel and once the possibilities are given, people will follow the safety and health requirements. They want to come, so the message is very positive.”

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