World Travel Awards, the leading authority that recognises and rewards excellence in tourism, has revealed its Asia and Oceania 2021 winners.
The Philippines has much to celebrate, having been recognised as among the best in the region by voters.
Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, minister of tourism for the Philippines, to find out how it feels to have won.
Breaking Travel News: Congratulations on your victory at the World Travel Awards – with the Philippines having been honoured with the titles of Asia’s Leading Beach Destination and Asia’s Leading Dive Destination. How does it feel to have won?
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat: This is the fifth time that the Philippines won as Asia’s Leading Beach Destination and the third time as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination.
But every year that we win is special because it not only proves the exceptional beauty of our islands, but also validates our sustainable efforts in developing and promoting our natural destinations.
These awards are even more meaningful during these challenging times as they are manifestations of the enduring cooperation that we have with our tourism stakeholders and industry towards recovery.
BTN: What is it that makes diving in the Philippines so special – what do you think attracted the eye of voters?
BRP: The Philippines, recognised as the centre of global marine biodiversity, is home to biologically diverse marine and aquatic resources.
The Philippines “has it all,” from the smallest critters to pelagic animals, there is a dive spot for every type of diver, whether you are an underwater photographer, a dive fanatic or a beginner.
Diving in the Philippines offers a wide variety of incredible sights and experiences like exploring caves and World War II shipwrecks, drifting through massive reef walls teeming with marine life, and even blackwater diving, an extreme kind of night dive over deep oceanic waters.
On top of all these spectacular underwater sights, diving in the Philippines is year-round and it is all in warm, crystal clear waters with great visibility.
With diving opportunities that attract divers with a wide range of interests, exceptional service from well-trained and experienced dive professionals and locals, and genuine Filipino hospitality, the Philippines truly is home to some of the world’s best scuba diving.
BTN: How will you be using the award to promote the Philippines as we head into 2022?
BRP: These awards will definitely boost our efforts to keep the Philippines a top-of-mind destination for tourists all over the word as we await the resumption of international leisure travel to the country.
Sun and beach, as well as diving, are among our top tourism products, and we have also developed new tourism circuits that are attuned to the new normal travel preferences.
These recognitions make the Philippines an established beach and dive destination, and can be our jump-off point in promoting new offerings, together with our efforts to ensure compliance with global health and safety standards.
BTN: Finally, can you tell us a little about the mood among the tourism sector in the Philippines – where is the destination with the recovery from Covid-19?
BRP: Tourism has been a significant pillar of Philippine economic development over the past ten years since the enactment of the tourism act of 2009, but with the arrival of the pandemic, it also became one of the hardest hit sectors due the restriction on travel and closing of borders.
In the midst of this pause, our tourism stakeholders have been very patient – they understand that everyone’s health and safety come first, and that the faster we can curb infection rates, the faster we can reopen the industry.
At present, we have been gradually reopening destinations to domestic tourists in areas that are deemed ready based on the assessment of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, and concerned local government units.
From what we have observed, the Filipinos’ appetite for travel remains strong.
With the Philippines’ robust domestic tourism base, we remain optimistic about the prospects of tourism despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The destinations that have so far reopened to tourists from all over the country include the Philippines’ crown jewel, Boracay Island, the award-winning island destinations of Cebu, and El Nido and Coron in Palawan, the country’s surfing capital of Siargao, and other beautiful spots near Metro Manila such as Clark, La Union and Ilocos Norte.
This pandemic has given the Philippines’ tourism industry a unique opportunity to explore, develop, and strengthen all the wonderful destinations and activities that we have in order to provide a better travel experience for tourists in the new normal.