11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Tourism Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand (Photo courtesy of DOT Philippines)

MANILA – The Philippines and other member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on Friday discussed ways to spur the tourism industry's recovery following a two-year pandemic slump.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Frasco told the 11th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting (APEC TMM) held in Bangkok, Thailand that the Philippines focuses its efforts on "facilitating connectivity and convenience, equalizing opportunities, and developing human capital."

Held every two years, the APEC TMM is the highest decision-making body of the APEC tourism sector.

It marked the first time APEC Tourism Ministers physically convened since the 10th APEC TMM hosted by Papua New Guinea in 2018.

Frasco joined fellow Tourism ministers and high-ranking officials from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States of America, and Vietnam.

Frasco also met with her counterparts from Thailand and Malaysia on the sidelines of the meetings.

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In her bilateral with Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Binti Shukri, Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Frasco sought to renew their existing tourism agreements.

“Both our countries have a shared heritage, values, value for family community, and culture. We view these as one of the core strengths of Malaysia. We anticipate that as we continue our partnership, the exchange of best practices on culture and heritage will be some of the key points of our agreement,” she said. "We wish to renew our agreements because we have every reason to visit each other’s country."

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the DOT and MOTAC in August 2001, aiming to foster cooperation in the areas of travel facilitation, research and development, education and training; tourism investments; and Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions.

Also in 2001, the Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents signed an MOU with the Philippine Travel Agencies Association to facilitate more travel and tourist exchanges between the two Southeast Asian nations.

Frasco said Manila is eager to learn from Malaysia about its "very successful" halal (permissible) programs.

“It's time for us to promote each other’s country. Malaysia is promoting an Asean tourism belt program which includes the Philippines as a neighboring country," Shukri said. "We hope to see more collaborations between the Philippines and other countries."

The Thailand government, meanwhile, is looking at Filipino workers to address its 60-percent shortage in the accommodation sector. (PNA)