In a momentous occasion at the Sokha Hotel in Cambodia on June 16, the Philippines, represented by Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, achieved a significant milestone by being elected as the Vice President of the 25th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This marks the Philippines’ return to the position after 24 years, with the last tenure in 1999.

The election took place during the 55th Meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, where the Philippines was also elected as Chair of the Commission. The country will preside over meetings addressing regional concerns, and the candidature of the Philippines was uncontested.

During the election proceedings, Secretary Frasco expressed the Philippines’ readiness to assume a primary role in the international tourism scene, aligning with the vision of President Rodrigo Duterte for the Philippines to become a tourism powerhouse in Asia.

“We are beyond grateful as we welcome this opportunity to present our best to the world and for all the member states and affiliates of the UNWTO to be re-introduced to the Philippines—a nation steeped in culture, heritage, and tradition, driven by a young population that is modern with a talent for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Secretary Frasco during her speech.

The Philippines, under Secretary Frasco’s leadership, also extended an invitation to host the Joint Commission Meeting of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the Commission for South Asia in 2024. The event is expected to gather around 300 delegates from these regions.

As Cebu takes the center stage as the host, Secretary Frasco invited the delegates to explore the beauty and cultural richness of the province.

“We cannot wait to welcome you to the Philippines, particularly to my home province of Cebu, adjudged as one of the best islands in the world. Whether you want to go swimming with the whale sharks or diving with thresher sharks, experience gastronomic adventures and dance at our festivals, foremost of which is the Sinulog Festival. It has a rich culture, local heritage sites and has a place in world history as being on the map of the first circumnavigation of the world, not to mention the first touchpoint of Christianity in Asia,” Secretary Frasco shared.

In response, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili praised the Philippines for the successful dinner reception in Phnom Penh, expressing excitement and anticipation for the upcoming event in Cebu.

The Department of Tourism’s election to the UNWTO is particularly significant as it coincides with the agency’s 50th founding anniversary, further underscoring the Philippines’ commitment to elevating its position in the global tourism industry.

The recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that combined tourism revenue from domestic and international visitors amounted to 1.87 trillion pesos, with the industry creating 5.35 million tourism-related employment opportunities.

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