TRAVEL EXCHANGE. Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco (2nd from left) and Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operating Officer Margarita Nograles (right) grace the opening of the Philippine Travel Exchange 2022 at the Manila Marriott Hotel on Oct. 19, 2022. This year's event has generated a record-breaking PHP172.6 million in bookings, the Department of Tourism reported on Saturday (Oct. 22, 2022). (Photo from DOT)

MANILA – The ongoing Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2002 has generated a record-breaking PHP172.6 million in bookings, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported Saturday.

The amount was based on the initial submission of negotiated sales of Philippine sellers physically present at the event from October 19 to 20, surpassing sales reports of pre-pandemic editions.

PHITEX logged sales of PHP94.8 million and PHP46 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Staged in a hybrid format during the pandemic, sales leads from PHITEX 2020 and 2021 reached PHP43 million and PHP69 million, respectively.

“The impressive turnout of buyers and sellers, and the record-breaking numbers encapsulate the positive outlook for our country and growing interest in our destinations," Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in a media release.

"As we embark in an aggressive campaign to revive our tourism industry and roll out never-seen-before projects that will facilitate an enhanced connectivity into and around the Philippines, and provide a more convenient and seamless travel experience for guests, we anticipate more interest from local and international tourism stakeholders,” she added.

The 2022 PHITEX, organized by DOT's marketing arm the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), was attended by 116 buyers representing 32 countries, 53 of whom were physically present while 63 participated virtually.

The event runs until October 24 but virtual meetings would continue on October 26-28.

With PHITEX only on its fifth day, TPB Chief Operating Officer Margarita Nograles said more leads are expected to come in.

"Secretary Frasco has always emphasized the importance and opportunity in equitably promoting all our regions and not just our popular destinations," Nograles said. "This strategy has been proven effective as we brought the regional directors to be part of the B2B process, incorporated an exhibit of all the regions, invited weavers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and made sure that in our cultural shows, we integrated all regions in the visuals and live performances."

In a separate radio interview on Friday night, Frasco said the DOT is optimistic the Philippines could hit at least two million in foreign arrivals by the end of 2022.

Based on the DOT's latest figures, more than 1.7 million foreign tourists have visited the country since borders reopened in February this year. (PNA)