The Philippines is a recipient of the New Frontiers Award 2013 at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the Middle East’s premier travel and tourism exhibition.

The New Frontiers Award started to be a main feature of the ATM six years ago, given to destinations that have surmounted great adversity to rebound its tourism industries. The award also gives tribute to the resilience of local communities to rebuild their lives, as well as bring attention to the crisis management and risk reduction practices of local authorities.  It is the only citation extended during the event.

The Philippines was shortlisted, together with New York State (Hurricane Sandy) and Pakistan (2012 floods), among an original list of 10 nominees for outstanding contribution to tourism development in the face of overwhelming adversity.

“The Philippines, its government and its people, has shown remarkable fortitude and a stoic determination to get both communities and the local economy back on track following the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Bopha late last year, and their resilience in the face of such a monumental crisis is commendable,” Mark Walsh said.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., who led the Philippine delegation to ATM, received the award from Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director of Reed Travel Exhibitions. The crystal trophy came along with free exhibition space at the ATM worth US$10,000. The delegation was composed of 14 organizations representing nine tour operators, four hotel and resort companies, and one airline company.

The award is in recognition of the continuing efforts to rebuild infrastructure and the tourism economy after Typhoon Pablo (international name:  Bopha) wrought havoc in December 2012.  The catastrophe is deemed the world’s deadliest last year, leaving millions homeless and infrastructure and agricultural farms vastly damaged.

“The Philippine government, under the administration of President Aquino and the Department of Tourism have worked hand-in-hand to establish tourism as a major generator of income for the people and the country. At times of adversity, such as this, the determined spirit of our countrymen, supported by assistance from the international community, shines through and, it is this same spirit that is driving our tourism industry forward,” Assistant Secretary Bengzon Jr., said.

The first quarter arrivals from the Middle East region recorded a 22.1% gain over the same period last year. “We intend to attract more of the high-spending market from this region.  Service providers are optimistic of the continued uptrend and are investing to take advantage of this windfall. Cebu Pacific has launched its first long-haul flight to Dubai to commence in October.  Other airlines are to announce their services within the year,” Assistant Secretary Bengzon added.

“This award highlights the sheer resilience of our people and the resolve of all stakeholders to fast track recovery.  We also are very thankful to the many countries and international agencies with their generosity to help in our rebuilding efforts. Our record-breaking performance and new highs of the industry clearly indicate that our partnerships are bearing fruit.  Despite these crises, we remain undaunted and focused in showing our visitors that we are worth visiting,” DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. said.

“Indeed, what makes the Philippines more fun is its people. The bayanihan spirit, amplified during crisis, is a unique social phenomenon that will forever drive the Filipinos to remain steadfast and dependent on each other for strength, through good times and bad. That in the midst of great challenges, we still manage to put on a happy face,” Secretary Jimenez concluded.(dot.gov.ph)