Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco during the Tourism Industry Convergence Reception at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on Oct. 17, 2022. (Photo courtesy of DOT)

MANILA -- A tourism project that would highlight the Philippines' heritage and culture to increase travel among Filipinos and foreign visitors is set to be launched soon.

The program called the Philippine Experience would involve the development of caravans featuring culture, heritage, and arts unique to each region.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said it would draw inspiration from Suroy-Suroy Sugbo, a Cebuano initiative that sought to promote Cebu towns and cities' products and give tourists a chance to discover underrated destinations.

Giving industry stakeholders a glimpse of the program, Tourism directors from the Cordilleras down to Mindanao showcased the colors, festivals and "living traditions" that could be experienced in their regions.

"Our goal is to equalize opportunities across the regions and support the preservation of the country's cultural heritage and artistic resources," Frasco said during the Philippine Tourism Industry Convergence Reception at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on Monday.

"Through these experiential travel modules, we hope to introduce the very essence of our nation more deeply to our tourists and instill a sense of pride and patriotism among the Filipino people through greater appreciation of our country's inheritance and legacy," she added.

The Philippine Experience is part of the list of programs that DOT is implementing in the coming months to help the sector recover from the effects of the pandemic and position the Philippines as a primary tourism destination in Asia.

Prioritizing Mindanao

Frasco said the DOT would also strengthen promotions and prioritize the opening of Mindanao tourism to equally distribute its benefits.

"We've already started by groundbreaking in Mindanao the tourist areas in Bukidnon, specifically in Manolo Fortich, also in Samal Island in Davao del Norte," she told reporters.

"In keeping with our commitment to equalize tourism product development and promotion, we shall put spotlight on destinations and regions that were not previously promoted," she noted.

The DOT, Frasco said, is coordinating with the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to fully ensure the security of travelers coming to the southern area.

She said the agency is also working with local government units to include "barangay tanods" as additional peace auxiliary forces to secure a destination.

These initiatives are in line with the direction President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has set to "reintroduce the country's beauty to the world" and make tourism a major pillar of economic recovery for the Philippines.

"As we move forward, we at the DOT remain steadfast in reaching our objectives to concretize the vision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in making tourism a major pillar of economic recovery for the Philippines. We are just at the beginning of our journey and I assure you that the best days of the tourism industry are yet to come," Frasco said.

She encouraged tourism stakeholders to help the government as DOT continues to develop tourism products and improve the overall tourist experience.

She also announced the revival of the Philippine Tourism Awards to recognize tourism-related establishments that have innovatively and creatively projected Philippine culture and the Filipino brand.

Over 600 people attended the reception, including ranking officials and executives from the tourism industry.

Marcos, Vice President Sara Z. Duterte together with First Lady Liza and Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos graced the event. (PNA)