CEBU CITY – The three-day 19th edition of the Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex) opened Tuesday, September 22 with a virtual gathering at the Bellevue Resort in Panglao, Bohol, among 161 confirmed sellers, 124 buyers and some 350 delegates in one online platform for business-to-business (B2B) sessions and networking with this year’s theme “Phitex Pivots: Business Unusual.”

Photo from Tourism Promotions Board Philippines/ FACEBOOK/ MANILA BULLETIN

In a virtual press briefing on September 16 with Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, PHITEX and other officials, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones said that Phitex is the country’s biggest government-organized annual travel trade event since 1996, and has already averaged 190 buyers from 31 countries and 138 Philippine sellers.

Allones bared that this year’s PHITEX has 124 confirmed buyers from all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Russia, Vietnam and other Asian, European and African countries.

Domestic sellers number 161 confirmed sellers, and they come from areas like Albay, Baguio, Batangas, Bohol, Boracay, Cagayan de Oro, Camarines Sur, Cavite, Cebu, Clark, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, La Union, Manila, Masbate, Palawan, Tagaytay, Rizal, Samar, Sorsogon, Zambales and Zamboanga City.

Panglao was tapped as venue for the travel exchange this year because it is one of the first islands in the country to reopen to international tourists after travel restrictions were eased, given the province’s pool of dedicated leaders, low number of COVID–19 cases, beautiful beaches, resorts, dive spots, and other tourism attractions, and a new international airport, Allones said during the press briefing.

According to Allones, travel, and other tourism events may have temporarily stopped because of the global coronavirus pandemic, but the Philippines aims to drive the industry forward by staging the virtual edition of this year’s Phitex.

“Amid the immense challenges for the tourism industry, TPB is leveraging on digital technology as a platform to sustain and explore new opportunities and markets.  With this e-conference setup, we endeavor to update our tourism market stakeholders from all over the world with the latest Philippine tourism offerings,” Allones added.

What makes this year’s Phitex even more exciting is the hybrid aspect in which Philippine sellers will get a first-hand experience of travel in the new normal, hinging on the concept of “business unusual.”  A highlight of this year’s Phitex is the Travel Exchange (Travex), a series of exclusive business-to-business appointments between Philippine sellers and foreign buyers, happening for the first time in virtual booths, Allones bared.

According to Phitex officials, the online market space has been customized to feature each company’s range of products and services in high definition videos, digital product collaterals, and one-on-one chat rooms for more focused and effective networking with prospective buyers.

Phitex also puts together various avenues of information for tourism stakeholders in the context of the global pandemic. The event will showcase a webinar series where tourism industry experts share insights on topics such as effective marketing strategies during crises, embracing the power of technology, green destinations, and principles in developing sustainable tourism.

The event will also host interview sessions and roundtable discussions featuring local and international key tourism stakeholders and pool of leading players in the industry to tackle topics and issues on business recovery strategies, impact of collaboration, and how to embrace resilience and innovations.

Other activities include Philippines 360–series of online games and quizzes that deal with Philippine culture and the arts, and topics discussed throughout the event.  A specially curated virtual tour of Manila, dubbed as the Philippines’ Capital of Fun is also one of the event highlights, showcasing the city’s unique blend of old world and new culture.

It also has videos-on-demand which allow event participants to replay key moments from the event and view content such as tourism marketing videos, highlights of past TPB events, links to film tourism with English subtitles, cooking videos, travel videos and more.

Source: Manila Bulletin (