Philippines strengthens tourism ties with Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand — Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco met with her counterpart Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn on the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Tourism Ministerial Meeting (TMM) to strengthen bilateral tourism initiatives between the two countries.

Buddhist Temple in Thailand
Buddhist Temple in Thailand

“We very much welcome the priority espoused by the Minister as far as the importance that’s given by the Prime Minister to regional cooperation, especially in terms of expanding the experience of tourists that come to Asia, so that they will not only come to Thailand but go to the Philippines as well. This priority is also shared by the President of the Republic of the Philippines, who has identified tourism as one of the major priority programs under his administration. And for this reason, we are extending our hand of collaboration to you and to your government, optimistic that by our working together, we would be able to forge a stronger region together and recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary Frasco remarked during the meeting.

Implementing Program of Tourism Cooperation Agreement

Secretary Frasco requested, and Minister Ratchakitprakarn accepted the invitation to renew and update the Implementing Program of Cooperation between The Philippines and Thailand on collaborations in the areas of travel facilitation, research and development, education, and training, tourism initiatives, human capital development, and employment generation.

To recall, The Philippines and Thailand inked an Implementing Program of a Tourism Cooperation Agreement for 2017 to 2022 on 21 March 2017.

“With regards to the implementation program, we are delighted already to extend as I have mentioned, we have no objections; we see it as a very, very good idea between our two countries. There are a few agendas that I would like to discuss with regards to the exchange of tourists. I understand that as we stand, we have more tourists from the PHL than Thais going to the Philippines and I want to change this and for our Departments to engage in public relations with the Philippines so we can increase the number of Thai tourists going to the Philippines,” responded the Thailand Tourism Minister.

“I accept with gratitude the minister’s sentiments saying that we would like more people from Thailand to visit the Philippines to equalize the number of people from the Philippines that visit Thailand. As of August 14, 2022, we have had a little over 1.2 million visitors to the Philippines. Of that number, there have been 6,401 Thai nationals. With your government’s help and our partnership, we look forward to increasing that number, and we would welcome you with open arms in the Philippines,” Secretary Frasco tells Minister Ratchakitprakarn.

The exchange of best practices for anchoring the country’s tourism on culture and heritage was discussed by the tourism chiefs with Minister Ratchakitprakarn, complimenting The Philippines’ successful preservation of heritage sites.

To this, Secretary Frasco cited the efforts of the Province of Cebu “to conduct heritage caravans for all local government units(LGUs) to bring in experts at conservation and restoration, identify sites, educate the community, and give them a sense of ownership and pride of place so that duty of care for heritage is not upon government alone but shared by the community”.

During the meeting, Secretary Frasco also explored the possibility of collaborating with Thailand in the areas of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) Tourism, Education tourism, particularly English as a Second Language, and food and gastronomy tourism. Meanwhile, Minister Ratchakitprakarn raised the prospect of a tourism circuit that will involve The Philippines and Thailand, which can be marketed as a package for visitors outside of Asia.

The two ministers agreed to form a technical working group to further review and discuss the updating and possible expansion of the areas of collaboration between The Philippines and Thailand.

“I welcome the formation of a technical working group at the soonest possible time so that we can ensure that our best practices of both our countries, we would be able to share with each other for purposes of improving our present standards and strategies and also to ensure that the desire to increase tourist arrivals in both our countries would come into fruition,” said Secretary Frasco.

Listening Tours for Thailand tourism stakeholders

While in Bangkok, Secretary Frasco reached out to the tourism stakeholders of Thailand to explore possible collaborations with the industry players to entice more Thai tourists to come to The Philippines and convened the representatives of Thailand’s tourism sectors – leisure, education tourism, dive tourism, MICE, and aviation, to learn and explore best practices in the industry.

Among the topics raised by the participants include the possibility of developing a link between Thailand, Japan, and The Philippines. The participants likewise noted The Philippines’ strength in the portfolios of Education Tourism, particularly English as Second Language (ESL), and Culture and the Arts, specifically on preserving our heritage and culture.

Among the attendees are representatives of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), Esque Lifestyle & Travel; Jubilee Travel Co., Ltd.; Dive Potato; SC World Express; Big World Holiday; Worldwide Agency Co., Ltd.; Abroad Land; Pleione Travel Co., Ltd.; Supertrips Co., Ltd.; All Around Trading & Holidays Co., Ltd.; Kor Pun Gun; Bright Idea; Mango Learning Express; Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air (Thailand); Thai Air Asia; and Siam Tourism Group Co., Ltd.

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