Empowering local communities at the heart of the Philippines’ tourism strategy

ITB Asia News spoke with Maria Margarita Montemayor Norgrales, COO for the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines, in an exclusive interview

The COO emphasised how important it is for the institution to foster and strengthen local communities as part of the country’s unique appeal.

Could you shed light on the key initiatives that the TPB has taken to promote sustainable tourism in the Philippines?
Sustainable tourism has been at the forefront of the TPB’s initiatives and is already incorporated into our programmes with discussions on circular economy, sustainable sourcing, and targeting carbon neutral events and activities. Beyond learning initiatives, we are promoting more of our lesser known attractions to avoid over-tourism in our award-winning destinations.

For years, the TPB has continuously been empowering local communities all over the Philippines.

How does the TPB work with local communities to ensure they benefit from the growth of tourism in their areas?
For years, the TPB has continuously been empowering local communities all over the Philippines. We are now in the fourth phase targeting 14 local communities. Our Community Based Tourism (CBT) Marketing Enhancement Programme serves as a platform for our local communities to enhance their marketing and branding capabilities, understanding the aspects of unique experiential tours. It also allows local travellers to directly interact with them.

Other programmes include the Tour Operators River Protectors of Environment and Development Organisation (TORPEDO) where former Illegal loggers have become Environmental Protectors of the Ulot River, the third longest in the Philippines; the Domestic Tourism Invitational Programme with tourism circuits such as Cagayan De Oro-Bukidnon-Davao; and wellness tourism in Batangas and Cavite. We also showcase communities’ heritage, culture and tradition in various domestic and international travel and trade fairs.

What are some of the most innovative initiatives the TPB has launched to bolster the Philippines’ tourism industry in the post-pandemic era?
Travel Philippines is the official travel app of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines. It provides up-to-date information on our 7,641 islands. The app also allows tourists to create their own trips and save important travel documents for a seamless travel experience. Our enhanced app was actually launched just yesterday!

How is the TPB collaborating with other sectors to diversify and enrich the Philippines’ tourism experience for travellers?
We are continuously collaborating with local government units and their respective tourism officers to provide tourism marketing seminars to help them to better promote their destinations, and train their stakeholders to level up services. We also work with tour operators and MICE organisers through our MICEPlus programme to improve incentive experiences. Another part of our promotional programme is working with the Department of Agriculture and the National Museum to integrate their ecotourism parks and our heritage museums into tourism activities.

How important is ITB Asia for the Philippines?
On a national level, the TPB always ensures a strong Philippine delegation when participating in international big ticket events such as ITB Asia. This year we are joined by 25 tourism stakeholders from the airline, accommodation, travel and tours, and government sectors.

Promoting new themes and destinations in the Philippines

The TPB has a series of initiatives to highlight new themes, destinations and activities across the archipelago. This year tourism marketing educational seminars and workshops were conducted to promote the Philippines’ indigenous textile and weaving, their nature-based attractions in Sagay City, and bag makers in Mauban in Quezon.

New destinations emphasised by the TPB include Rizal with its verdant hills and valleys stretching from the rugged foothills of Montalban and Antipolo down to the picturesque shores of Laguna de Bay; Romblon, a laid back island town a few hours away from world-famed Boracay; Dumaguete in Negros Oriental province, a fantastic tourist getaway with great food and incredible diving spots including natural attractions such as Red Rock, Pulangbato Falls, Mt. Kanlaon and Lake Balinsasayaw as well as vibrant and diverse diving sites at Apo Isand; Cagayan De Oro in Mindanao, considered the “City of Golden Opportunities”; and South Cotabato, dubbed the “Land of the Dreamweavers” in the southern part of Mindanao with T’nalak textiles with their traditional geometric patterns of T’boli women.

Stand F05