PH hosting of WTTC summit ‘success’: Tourism chief

Medical & Health

The Philippines has successfully hosted the 2022 World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) summit, with zero incidences of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Friday.

The hybrid event at the Marriott Hotel in Newport City gathered 1,200 local and foreign delegates, including the world’s foremost business leaders, government ministers, and key decision-makers in the tourism industry, surpassing the 600 initial estimates for in-person attendees.

On its virtual platform, some 10,000 participants attended the numerous panel talks that discussed the latest travel trends, sustainable investment prospects, regenerative tourism, and seamless travel in a pandemic era, among others.

“All the delegates, there were no complaints, entry was smooth. There were some medical emergencies but they were not Covid-related so at least it goes to show that we are going back to normal,” she told reporters in an ambush interview.

“On April 1, we re-opened to all countries and (now) we were able to stage a three-day global event successfully, more than a thousand people came, that itself is an achievement. At least during our time, we were able to do that,” she said.

WTTC president and CEO Julia Simpson said the summit in Manila was tangible proof that “nothing beats” discussing pressing issues and generally trying to find consensus face-to-face.

At WTTC’s Global Leaders Dialogue session, stakeholders explored how the sector could continue to adapt to Covid-19 and emerge resiliently from the pandemic.

“We still have work to do to bring down post-pandemic barriers, open economies, and harmonize health data for seamless travel. Sustainability hasn’t just been an item on this agenda, it’s been a major theme of the summit,” Simpson said.

During the closing ceremony, WTTC chairperson Arnold Donald announced that Saudi Arabia will host the 22nd WTTC Global Summit from November 29 to December 2, 2022.

‘Frictionless travel’

The prospect of frictionless travel where border restrictions are more relaxed seems to be within reach as the summit revealed that more and more countries are looking at the possibility of standardizing travel requirements in the pandemic era.

Earlier, Romulo-Puyat said some Southeast Asian nations are discussing the viability of unified health protocols at least within the region.

In Japan, the country’s official tourism body is also proposing a system that would be interoperable with other countries’ protocols, especially as Tokyo prepares for the future reopening of its borders to foreign tourists.

At present, nonresident foreigners except tourists can enter Japan amid the country’s existing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“[I] understand that among Asean you are talking about harmonizing your health standard. This harmonization would be the key so we asked the Ministry of Health to consider having interoperability with other standards– regional or international,” Japan Tourism Agency Vice Commissioner Kaneko Tomohiro said in a media interview.

On the summit’s sidelines, Romulo-Puyat had several bilaterals with major tourism organization representatives as well as her counterparts from Thailand, South Africa, and India, with less restrictive travel as the overarching theme of the meetings.

“All of them were here because they were looking at best practices, it was a way for us to share best practices. They were telling me that (staging a large event) can be done,” she said.

“India will be having the global summit for tourism ministers in December so now they feel more confident. They all came here just to see how it was… The consensus is to make travel more seamless, if possible to make it less restrictive,” she added.

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