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Philippines to host the 1st ever UN Tourism Gastronomy Forum

PHILIPPINES – With the rising popularity of travel shows and travel vlogging, not to mention the regular sharing of videos and photos on social media, it only takes an internet connection for anyone to see various sights and tourist attractions all over the world. And while one can virtually gain familiarity with various tastes and dishes from all over the world, nothing beats savoring the actual thing bite by authentic bite.

As travel has become more accessible, gastronomy tourism has become a major driver for travel among tourists, with the World Food Travel Association reporting that around 80% of travelers research food and drink while visiting a destination and classifies over half (53%) of all travelers as “culinary travelers.” Further, according to a 2023 report by Booking.com, 34% of travelers prioritize restaurants and dining experiences, viewing them as gateways to understanding local traditions and lifestyles.

Recognizing travelers’ growing interest in food and the opportunities that gastronomy holds in sustainable socio-economic development, cultural exchange, and well-being, the United Nations (UN) Tourism will organize the inaugural UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific, alongside the 36th UN Tourism Joint Commission Meeting for East Asia and the Pacific and Commission for South Asia from 26-28 June 2024 in Cebu, Philippines. Hosted by the Philippines through its Department of Tourism (DOT), this highly anticipated event will be held at Shangri-La Mactan in Cebu City from 26-27 June 2024, while the 36th UN Tourism Joint Commission Meeting for East Asia and the Pacific and Commission for South Asia is scheduled on 28 June 2024 at Sheraton Mactan.

The event is expected to gather some 300 attendees including ministers from UN member-states, affiliate members, and tourism stakeholders from international organizations to exchange knowledge and best tourism practices in the Pacific, East, and South Asia regions.

UN Tourism Gastronomy Forum

The Philippines, Chair of the UN Tourism Commission for East Asia and the Pacific

Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed the DOT and stakeholders’ readiness to host the preeminent UN Tourism events, highlighting the country’s hosting as a perfect opportunity for the Philippines to showcase its culinary treasures on a global stage.

“As Chair of the UN Tourism Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines commits fully to leveraging the region’s strategic position to promote a range of initiatives that will benefit not only our country but also our neighbors, particularly, its rich and diverse gastronomy tourism portfolio. With only a few weeks left until the country’s historic hosting of the UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific, we are closely working with our partners to ensure that our forum delegates coming from all over the world will be able to immerse deep in our rich culinary traditions, and treated with nothing less than the warm hospitality that Filipinos are known for all over the world. With the full support of our President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., and with all of our stakeholders working together—from the national government, our local government units and communities, our various stakeholders from the travel and tourism industry, we are optimistic for the success of the country’s auspicious hosting of these important tourism events,” Secretary Frasco said.

According to the tourism chief, the Philippines could not be a more fitting host country for the event, with the growing popularity of Filipino food across the world.

Home of the world’s best dishes

Future Market Insights valued the Philippine gastronomy tourism market at USD 5.4 billion in 2022 and it has been projected a compound growth annually at 14.7% over the next decade. Iconic Filipino dishes such as our braised pork and chicken dish ‘adobo,’ tamarind-based sour soup ‘sinigang,’ and the ever-popular open fire-roasted ‘lechon’ and ‘sisig’ have earned praise from known food journalists in the past. For instance, the late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, while dining in Cebu, branded lechon the “best pig ever” and declared Pampanga’s sizzling pork medley sisig as “perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole.”2 Food critic Andrew Zimmern, meanwhile, has gone on record to declare Filipino food as “the next big thing” in the US as early as 2017.3

The Philippines is also home to Iloilo City, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, and regions such as Western Visayas, the Cordillera Administrative Region, Pampanga, and Cebu are actively engaged in the development of Slow Food programs.

These raves, as well as the increasing popularity of Filipino and fusion food around the world as evinced by numerous awards and citations accorded to Filipino chefs, restaurants, food, chocolate, even liquor and spirits—have encouraged the Philippines’ DOT to further promote culinary tourism, recognizing the country’s vast potential as a leading gastronomy destination in Asia.

Under its National Tourism Development Plan (2023-2028) approved by the President and in line with its enhanced tourism campaign, “Love the Philippines”, the DOT is deep in developing more culinary tours and festivals, dining destinations, and food trail activities to further intensify the promotion and development of the country’s diverse gastronomy tourism offerings.

“As we intensify our diversification of the country’s tourism portfolio through multidimensional tourism, we strongly see food as a crucial element in enhancing the Philippine cultural experience. In addition to integrating food in festivals, arts and crafts, traditions, and practices, we are actively working towards supporting the development of halal/Muslim-friendly tourism, heritage villages for cultural communities, and the preservation of farms and heritage sites,” the DOT chief explained.

Serving more than just food, gastronomy tourism encapsulates a nation’s culture, history, and traditions. For the Philippines, promoting the sector drives sustainable economic growth and enhances the country’s position as a tourism powerhouse.

Aside from the day-long forum on June 26 2024 which brings together tourism and gastronomy powerhouses to tackle policy framework for the development and promotion of gastronomy tourism, value of land and products in the sustainable development of gastronomy tourism, cost-effective and environmentally responsible strategies for reducing food waste and promoting local sourcing, successful best practices in gastronomy tourism in the Asia Pacific region, among others, the delegates will be able to sample the best of Philippine flavors through a showcase by top Filipino chefs, and get a glimpse of Cebu’s allure as a top tourist destination through a technical tour on 27 June 2024.

“The Philippines has a myriad of experiences in store for our delegates to offer tourists coming from around the world. Experiencing our food is on top of that list as it is rooted in our history and tradition. Just as the Philippines is a blend of various cultures, Filipino food mixes and melds different influences to come up with something for everyone,” the Tourism Secretary concluded.


ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM – PHILIPPINES

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is the primary government agency tasked with the responsibility to develop and promote a globally-competitive tourism industry that plays a major role in the socio-economic development of the country.

Following its mandate under Republic Act No. 9593 also known as the Tourism Act of 2009, the DOT is responsible for the implementation of the National Tourism Development Plan for 2023-2028 approved by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., which seeks to “establish a Philippine tourism industry anchored on Filipino culture, heritage, and identity, which aims to be sustainable, resilient, and competitive, in order to transform the Philippines into a tourism powerhouse in Asia.”

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