Leaders of the global tourism industry praised the Philippines’ successful hosting of the 21st Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) as it closed with high hopes for an industry battered by two years of the pandemic.
“I’m not often stumped for words, but I am now. Wow! What an amazing summit. We really have rediscovered travel,” said Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, who considered the “extraordinary Philippine welcome” as her personal highlight of the two-day summit.
“That warmth, that passion, that generosity, that smile. I haven’t walked out one corridor without people saying to me ‘Good morning!’. It’s incredible. You live it. It’s not a show – it really is in your DNA,” she said after the closing ceremony.
In her closing speech, Simpson said the success of the summit was “testament that the country’s tourism industry is well on its feet.”
The summit, which gathered world leaders of the tourism industry, has given the Philippines the opportunity to showcase “how beautiful the country is,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said on Friday.
She said the Philippines is now a top-of-mind destination for delegates, many of whom had decided to stay to savor the rest of the country where “we are setting an example of how to open safely.”
“This has been a wonderful global summit and, to echo your brand campaign, we certainly had lots of fun in the Philippines. This is an experience all the delegates of the Summit can definitely attest to,” WTTC Chairman Arnold Donald said in his closing address.
Gloria Guevara, special advisor of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism and former president and CEO of WTTC, said the Philippines “has exceeded all of our expectations. Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat before and during the pandemic, the Philippines has been successfully repositioned as a top destination and she delivered an impactful Summit. The Filipino hospitality has also made it memorable.”
Puyat was joined on stage by WTTC Chair and Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald and WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson. On the opening day, the Philippines was lauded by the global tourism leaders attending the event on site.
"Here in Asia-Pacific, the reopening is just beginning. And I have to say I congratulate the Philippines and Minister Bernadette, a nation that showed determination and courage to reignite travel in this region,” Simpson said.
Puyat also served as one of the speakers during the summit’s first panel discussion titled Redefining Travel in a Changing World, sitting alongside Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths, Marriott International Group President Craig S. Smith, and The Global Rescue Companies CEO Dan Richards to talk about how travel and tourism sector continue to offer incredible experiences and drive social progress while still protecting health, preserving the environment, and responding to a rapidly changing landscape.
Smith shared that the sector is well on its way to recovery, sharing his surprise at how fast tourism–in the Philippines–has been bouncing back.
“I've never seen a recovery this fast: average rates, first time interest rates. Take the Philippines for example. We have five hotels in the Philippines and we have 15 hotels that are being opened. We want to create these jobs. And so with the help of governments like yours, we see a really bright future going forward that this collaboration is going to do,” remarked Smith.
She said that as the pandemic forced the global tourism industry to raise its game and change the way it gets things done, “we have likewise put much effort into discerning the most effective combination between the enforcement of health and safety guidelines and personal convenience - the delicate balancing act of implementing measures to ensure everyone’s safety without placing unreasonable burdens on the traveling public.”
“Our shared hopes and dreams for the future are reflected in the policies we have developed, and the measures we have put in place to plan and realize this sector’s full and complete recovery,” Puyat said.
Citing the need for sustainable tourism, she said the summit also given way to “passionate advocates for responsible tourism, and for a greener environment.”
“Our destinations must not be allowed to go back to the old unsustainable ways of the past. Instead, we must move forward guided by strategic and evidence-based planning and aimed towards building further resilience,” she added.