MANILA – The Philippines and Italian governments are looking to forge their first tourism cooperation agreement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Saturday.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco proposed to sign a memorandum of understanding during her meeting with Italian Minister of Tourism Daniela Garnero Santaché in Rome Thursday.

Santaché, the DOT said, shared Manila's interest to expand collaboration and "positively received" Frasco’s proposal.

“We would like to continue the collaboration that our two countries have before. Also, [from the level of the Minister of Tourism of Italy and Philippines], we share the interest that you shared to have a Memorandum of Understanding of trying to have coordination,” Santaché was quoted as saying.

Possible areas of cooperation under the said MOU will include the cross-promotion of dive sites in Rome and the Philippines, reinstating direct flights between the two countries, and provision of Italian language training assistance to Filipino tourism workers.

The two Tourism chiefs also discussed the potential of Italian and Filipino food and gastronomy as a tourism product.

Italy is a key source market of the Philippines, with nearly 40,000 arrivals in 2019 before the pandemic, based on the data from the DOT.

"We recognize your country to be a very important partner for the Philippines in many aspects. We celebrate 75 years of our official relations, and we share with you a love for many things Italian,” Frasco told her Italian counterpart.

“In 2019, we welcomed almost 40,000 Italians into the Philippines as tourists. We are very interested in increasing that number,” she added.

The DOT said Frasco headed to Rome to maximize her official overseas mission as head of the Philippine delegation to the 2022 World Travel Market (WTM) in London.

She also continued her listening tour in Italy and sought to create new and strengthen existing partnerships with Italian travel and tourism players.

Representatives from the aviation sector, the media, travel and tours sectors, and the diving community joined the said meeting.

Frasco gave an assurance that the Philippines continues to explore ways to further make travel convenient, including by enhancing the international airports and continuing negotiations with airlines to reinstate discontinued routes.

Among the Italian stakeholders in attendance are Alpitour, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Go World, Guidda Viaggi, H20, KeL 12, L’Agenzia di Viaggi, Nautica, Travel Quotidiano, TTG Italia, Turismo & Attualita, Qatar Airways, VIA Viaggi in Avventura, and Viaggi del Mappamondo.

Philippine Embassy in Rome Chargé d’Affaires Nina Cainglet, Vice Consul Nadine Morales, and DOT Undersecretaries Shahlimar Tamano and Verna Buensuceso joined Frasco during the meetings. (PNA)