Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines Chief Operating Officer Margarita Nograles, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, and Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona during the opening of the 2022 PHITEX at Marriott Hotel, New World Resorts on Wednesday (Oct. 19, 2022). (Photo courtesy of TPB)

MANILA – The 2022 Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX), the third one held during a pandemic, kicked off Wednesday, renewing optimism on more business and leisure travels into the country.

PHITEX 2022 is the largest government-led business-to-business (B2B) travel trade event and is expected to generate around PHP50 million to PHP60 million in bookings.

Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) of the Philippines Chief Operating Officer, Maria Margarita Nograles, said the event is timely as more borders reopen.

"I have high hopes for the many successes we will soon see as tourism picks up steam, with PHITEX serving as one of the primary drivers behind the industry's resurgence. May this event ignite more business and leisure travels as we welcome the return of international buyers to our shores and sustainability showcase the beauty of Philippine destinations through our post-tours," she said.

Some 132 Philippine sellers and over 100 foreign buyers participated in the event, with more than 50 present on-site.

"We spoke to them in the past few days and they're so excited to be here and so raring to set up these products and tours to the Philippines. So I think this is an amazing start to the recovery that we want to see in the next few years," Nograles said.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, during the opening, said Manila would introduce a "special Philippine collection of overwintering packages" for foreign buyers, highlighting the sun and beach in the country's tropical islands, Filipino wellness experience, and rich cultural immersions, among others.

The event also includes post-tours for buyers where they can "sustainably explore" Philippine destinations in regional clusters of Region 4-A (Calabarzon), Cebu and Bohol, Davao, Ilocos Norte, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, and Manila.

"With PHITEX presenting an opportunity for all us to discover Philippine culture, learn more about the country’s products and services, and forge partnerships, let us be part of the solution and seek ways to improve tourism experiences while limiting our impact to the environment," Nograles said.

"We must go beyond the money shot and think of ways to positively contribute to the betterment of the travel industry as a whole," she added.

Latest data from the Department of Tourism showed that Americans have outranked South Koreans as the Philippines' top visitors this year, posting a total of 335,327 visitors from February 2022 to Oct. 17.

South Korea contributed a total of 240,469 while China, which was previously the country's second source market, only had 24,599 visitors in the same period.

Still, Chinese travelers are anticipated as Chinese buyers joined the 2022 PHITEX online, Nograles said. (PNA)