The 2023 PHITEX in the City of Cebu Showcases the Philippines as One of the World’s Best Tourism Destinations


If the walls of the gleaming convention halls at Fili Hotel at Nustar Cebu could talk, they would recount the incredible numbers that provide a vivid picture of the phenomenal success of the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX 2023) this year. There were 164 Filipino vendors, 88 international purchasers, 296,000,000 pesos in negotiated transactions, and unending, positive word-of-mouth praise for the Philippines.

Anthea Ifurung
Tabletop meetings resulted in record deals for both buyers and sellers

Over the course of two fantastic days, professionals in the field were able to bond and work together through face-to-face meetings at tabletop settings, establishing a culture of camaraderie and cooperation among industry professionals. In between the business-to-business activities, the delegates were also introduced to what the province of Cebu has to offer. From the opening ceremony to the closing celebration, PHITEX 2023 gave delegates a taste of the joyful hospitality, savory cuisine, and fascinating tourist attractions that await every tourist to the Philippines.

A Tourism Initiative That Pays it Forward

Reaching this momentous high would not have been feasible without the solid organizational abilities of the Tourism Board of the Philippines (TPB), the major Government agency charged with organizing this yearly tourism event.

Marga Nograles
Cebu shone bright as this year's PHITEX host

The Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX), an initiative of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPB), the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), was adjudged National Tourism Initiative of the Year at the Gov Media Awards, presented by Gov Media Magazine and held in Singapore last year. Accolades presented in this event honour the best government projects and initiatives across the Asia Pacific region and were judged by a panel of industry leaders, including representatives from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Anthea Ifurung
Holi Cow PH, one of the local products displayed during the event

The Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) has been the country's premier government-sponsored travel industry trade show since its inception in 1996. With the hopes of fostering new connections, forming new partnerships, and attracting more visitors to the Philippines, this annual event brings together qualified international buyers and sellers to conduct face-to-face business meetings and join pre- and post-event tours, respectively.

Koryn Iledan
Cebu is known also for its guitar products

This year's PHITEX, held in the Queen City of the South, not only provided a stage for the Philippines to be showcased to international travel operators, but also made efficient use of the event's budget by generating tourism revenue to every player in the tourism industry, from the partner hotels and airlines to the bus drivers and tour guides to souvenir shop owners and more. In retrospect, the PHITEX has developed into this travel trade event that promotes the Philippines abroad and gives back to the community by emphasizing the importance of tourism to the economic growth and cultural preservation of the countless towns that tourists from all walks of life can visit in the Philippines.

Sophie Gianan

The 2023 PHITEX with a theme of “Tourism Sustainability in the Era of Internet of Things", opened with speeches from Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary  Cristina Frasco, Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines COO Marga Nograles and Mayor Rama of Cebu City.

Janelle Cu
DOT Secretary  Cristina Frasco

DOT Secretary Frasco said, “As we stand at the threshold of the golden era of tourism, we see a future where Philippine tourism shines brighter than ever before, where every visitor leaves not only with cherished memories, but with a piece of our nation in their hearts,”

April Enerio
TPB COO Marga Nograles

Marga Nograles, Chief Operating Officer of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines, highlighted the importance of extending the scope of Philippine tourism beyond commercial transactions. She described how the TPB is working to arrange post-tours that will introduce international buyers to grassroots cultural activities focusing on local fabrics, native gastronomy, traditional crafts and eco-tourism endeavors.

Jomie Naynes
Sec. Frasco and COO Nograles samples a taho

“Amid this transformative surge, the tourism industry must be poised for action. We must not only embrace this digital evolution but also guide the way, ensuring that tradition coexists harmoniously with modernization,” Nograles said in light of the world’s deep dive into the age of the Internet of Things, which is transforming the entire tourism sector and the traveler's experience.

Philippine Educational Program (PEP) Talk: Inspiring the Next-Gen Tourism Players

This year’s Philippine Travel Exchange isn’t just about crunching business numbers and forging commerce relationships. It also served as an avenue for knowledge-sharing between experts in various fields and an audience yearning to learn more about the travel industry.

Isa Rodrigues
Cebu City Mayor Rama joins COO Nograles and DOT Sec Frasco in officially opening the PHITEX2023

A day before the opening of PHITEX, a PEP Talk was organized by the TPB and was held at the Triton Grand Ballroom of Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark in Lapu-Lapu City. Luring more than 500 audience members composed of PHITEX buyer and seller delegates, members of the academe community, LGU representatives and college students, the talk imparted much needed knowledge which the younger members of the crowd took to heart and pulled inspiration from.

Experts from a variety of subjects discussed a wide range of topics related to the Internet of Things (IoT) in a series of thought-provoking talks. Some of the presenters included  Geoff Andres, Property President of City of Dreams Manila, who discussed the impact of sustainability options in the hospitality sector; Maria Raisa Orbon, Chief Marketing Officer of Packetworx Inc, who touched on the role of technology and sustainable travel in the era of the Internet of Things; Maricel Gatchalian-Padilla who tackled the matter Embracing Digital Transformation in the Tourism and Hospitality Sector, among a handful of other speakers.

Spotlight on the Host City of Cebu

Before everyone dressed up in their best Filipiniana attire and prepared to socialize with one another in the business part of the event, both buyers and sellers were taken on a quick tour of a few interesting locations in and around Cebu.

Kai Magsanoc
Argao Church and Plaza

Despite the fact that the attendees only had a day before the opening of this year's PHITEX, they were given a taste of some of Central Visayas' cultural history, including a glimpse into the handloom weaving culture of the Hablon Weavers of Argao.

Anthea Ifurung
A Hablon weaver in Argao

Located in a picturesque seaside town, Argao is also noted for its four Ts namely: Tableya (hot chocolate), Torta (local muffin), Tuba (coconut wine) and Textile (Hablon).

After an afternoon snack of torta paired with tableya, the participants were introduced to a group of mother weavers of the popular Hablon. Hablon is a form of handwoven fabric made by women in the Visayas region, specifically on Panay Island and sections of Cebu. The term "Hablon" comes from the Hiligaynon word "Habol," which means "to weave."

The heritage district of Carcar

A stop in Carcar, whose market smells of freshly roasted juicy lechon and whose town plaza offers a glimpse into the olden days courtesy of the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and its adjacent structure, the architecturally gifted Carcar Puericulture Centre and Dispensary, and a city tour of Cebu completed the PHITEX participant's brief but sweet introduction to Cebu.

w/ Narjay of TPB, Patty Muhlach, Marco Lobregat and Kara Agas

And for us members of the media, we were treated to a mouthwatering exploration of some of Cebu’s highly recommended dining spots. Over the course of three days, we got a taste of the city’s gastronomic scene at some of the forefront contemporary restaurants in Cebu City, including Fili All-Day Dining by NUSTAR, the House of Lechon, the secret bar called Llula, the Spanish restaurant Socarrat, all of which added to my growing “Where to Eat List in Cebu” that also includes CAVA (which is located in a 120-year-old house), Bell + Amadeus, Seargao, The Pig and Palm, CUR8 and more.

Mavic Sevilla
With some Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB) people

As we joined the delegates in being billeted at the posh Fili Hotel, where every turn is a revelation of exquisite design, impressive artwork, and cozy amenities, we also found time to engage in some wellness luxury at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts before capping the fun PHITEX with a closing party filled with drinks, dancing and endless merrymaking at the Triton Ball of Jpark Island Resort and Waterpark.

Fortunately, this writer’s 2023 PHITEX story doesn’t end there, as AsianTraveler became one of the select few media members invited to join one of the post-PHITEX familiarization excursions in the provinces of Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, and Davao del Norte.

*This article appears on the 2023 3rd quarter issue of asianTraveler Magazine