Forty-four (44) tourism organizations representing primary and secondary tourism enterprises as well as allied and relevant enterprises in the tourism sector throughout the country, including former tourism secretaries Mina T. Gabor and Jose Antonio Gonzalez, gathered for the Tourism Congress held on November 25, 2009 at the Marriott Hotel Manila in Newport City.

Convened by Tourism Secretary Ace Durano in pursuant to Republic Act 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009), the pioneer members of the Tourism Congress included, among others, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP), the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS), the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PhilTOA), the Board of Airline Representative (BAR), the Movement of Incentive Travel Executives (MITE), the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), Spa Association of the Philippines (SAPI), the Philippine Association of Health Organizations in Medical Tourism (PhilAsHOMe), Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), Philippine Retirement, Inc. (PRI), Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA), Davao Tourism Association (DATA), Hotel Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), Boracay Foundation, Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant Association (COHARA), and other travel agencies, hotels, resorts and restaurant associations from all over the country.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her inaugural speech thanked the private sector for pouring P555 Billion in tourism investment in the accommodation, tourist transport, infrastructure and utilities. President Arroyo said, “The private sector participation in tourism has taken a new promising turn in recent months, with major players investing not only in resorts, or airplanes but even in infrastructure projects, such as the modernization of Caticlan Airport and waste water treatment facility in Boracay Island.”

President Arroyo further congratulated the valuable members of the private sector of the tourism industry which are now officially recognized by the Tourism Act through the Tourism Congress. The President stressed, “This Congress convened for the first time must be repeated again and again in the future.”

Former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor was selected as Presiding Officer while Rose Libongco, President of the HSMA, as Secretary of the Tourism Congress.

Members of Tourism Congress toiled at the discussion of adoption of their Constitution and By-Laws as well as election of its Board of Trustees charged to follow through the ratification and formulation of detailed guidelines for the conduct of the organization, membership and nomination to the governing boards.

Elected to the Tourism Congress Board of Trustees (BOT) were Charles Uy, President, (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Boracay); Mike Albana, Executive Vice-President (HRRAC); Alma Jimenez, Vice-President for Luzon (PhilAsHOMe); Jenny Franco, Vice-President for Visayas, (NAITAS-Cebu); Susan Palad, Vice-President for Mindanao (Davao Association of Tour Operators); Wanda Teo, Secretary (NAITAS Davao); Gene Bangayan, Treasurer (Davao Tourism Association), as well as Jaime Cura and Dexter Deyto, Organizers and Suppliers (CREBA of the Philippine Association of Convention/ Exhibition).

Newly elected BOT President Uy expressed that, “The private sector is committed to working closely with the Department of Tourism in the development, implementation and coordination of tourism plans and policies.” With the view of strengthening collaboration among the private sector and the government, Uy lauded the new Tourism Act, its proponents and the DOT for making said partnership possible.

BOT Treasurer Bangayan said, “The Tourism Congress is a very welcome development for stakeholders in Davao and Mindanao as it opens new avenues for networking in the industry.”

On the participation of the members, Libongco said, “Delegates were informed, articulate and gave valuable inputs on the Constitution and By-laws of the Tourism Act. We look forward to a vibrant industry ahead.”

Felix Cruz, President of BAR likewise commended the exercise, “The Tourism Congress is a breakthrough in tourism, giving new momentum in the promotion of the tourism industry specially for the airlines and transportation sector.”

Pursuant to RA 9593, the Tourism Congress serves as the private sector consultative body to assist the Department of Tourism in the coordination of tourism policies.

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