Highlights of 34th Philippine Travel Mart: Spratlys Island, Verde Island Passage open for tourism

Collage of Verde Island Passage booth and Spratlys Island booth at the Philippine Travel Mart from September 1 to 3, 2023 (batspiocapitol, Philtravelmart/ Facebook)

The Verde Island Passage and the Spratlys Islands were promoted for tourism during a recently concluded travel fair.

The 34th Philippine Travel Mart (PTM), an annual one-stop-shop for local tourism, was held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. It ran from September 1 to 3.

Touted as the biggest to date, the travel mart featured nearly 200 exhibitors from all 17 regions of the Philippines, including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

RELATED: More exhibitors from regions 1 to 16 to join 34th Philippine Travel Mart

The Verde Island Passage in Batangas and the Spratlys Islands in Palawan were showcased for the first time at the travel fair.

Considered the “epicenter of marine biodiversity,” the Verde Island Passage was previously affected by a massive oil spill on Mindoro Island, thus threatening its biodiversity.

RELATED: Civic group recreates ‘Barbie’ poster to promote parrotfish, marine protection 

Spratlys Islands has been the center of a long-running territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

China, in particular, has asserted its claim over the entirety of this group of islands and the rest of South China Sea.

‘Under the Sea’ theme 

Verde Island Passage was introduced to guests at the travel mart through an interactive and immersive LED tunnel.

With the theme “Under the Sea,” a virtual reality display of Batangas’ rich marine life was installed in the tunnel-like attraction where guests enjoyed taking pictures.

Numerous conservation efforts for the Verde Island Passage, also known as the Coral Triangle, and its marine biodiversity were also conveyed to visitors at the exhibit.

This booth was an initiative of Batangas’ Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office led by Batangas Governor DoDo Mandanas.

A chartered expedition

Travelers can now visit the Spratlys Islands via a 7-day/6-night chartered expedition. This is organized by the Kalayaan Tourism Development Center.

The tour package includes the following:

Full board mealsInternet connectionGear for water sports and recreational activitiesMassage

The expedition, meanwhile, starts at Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. Participants of the exhibition will go to the following islands:

Lawak IslandPatag IslandPag-asa Island

Encouragement to travel

The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) has been the organizer of this exposition since 1994.

In her opening statement, PHILTOA President Fe Abling-Yu encouraged the public to visit “exotic” destinations, citing the Spratlys and the BARMM provinces.

“If there is anything that the recent pandemic restrictions have taught us, it is to love our freedom to travel, our freedom to explore.  Let us take advantage of this freedom to make new discoveries,” Yu said.

“This year, I urge the public to discover other beautiful destinations of our archipelago— the Spratly Islands, Marinduque, Quirino, Basilan de Isabela, and the exotic attractions, food, and culture of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, just to mention a few,” she added.

The travel fair also featured the following exhibitors:

25 tour operators4 airlines84 hotels and resorts

Delicacies, handicrafts, and other products from the regions of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were also offered by selected merchants at their respective booths.

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