Passengers are seen at the departure lobby of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

OUTBOUND international travel is expected to grow further this year, based on initial bookings data, which point to the likelihood that such trips will surpass pre-pandemic levels, the chairman of an upcoming travel trade show said.

Cris Aquino, president of Travel Proponents, Inc. (Travelpros) and chairman of the 31st Travel Tour Expo (TTE) program committee, said that travel agencies are now handling more bookings than they were before the pandemic.

“The bookings have already gone back. Actually, there are even more Filipinos going outbound compared to pre-pandemic,” Mr. Aquino said on the sidelines of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association’s (PTAA) TTE 2024.

“I think it is because most of them felt deprived during the pandemic or are scared that another pandemic will happen again and they will not be able to travel, or maybe some of them were able to save money during the pandemic, which they are now using to travel,” he said.

He said top international destinations are Japan and South Korea. However, he said that there is also increased demand for destinations such as Vietnam, Israel and the surrounding countries, and Turkey.

The PTAA at a pre-event briefing projected travel bookings, domestic and international, to grow 20-25% this year due to pent-up demand that had built up during the pandemic.

According to Mr. Aquino, the domestic destinations receiving strong interest are Siargao, Boracay, El Nido, and Coron. He said that there might be an increase in demand for Batanes if the weather proves favorable.

Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina G. Frasco said that PTAA’s role of putting together travel and tour packages “has benefited travel agencies, tour operators, partner airlines, small and medium enterprises and hotels and resorts.”

“I am grateful because by inbound travel we contribute to our economy and by outbound travel our travelers contribute through our travel taxes from which we derive all the tourism infrastructure projects that we’ve managed to do in the short span of a year,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Frasco said that the most prevalent request among travelers is clean and decent restrooms in tourist destinations.

“That is why we plan to build tourist rest areas (TRAs) all over the Philippines. We have managed to inaugurate seven and three more will be inaugurated. And then we’re building 20 more TRAs,” she said.

The TRAs have restrooms, information centers, and pasalubong gift centers featuring small- and medium-sized enterprises selling Philippine goods.

“By investing in infrastructure to increase the enhanced overall tourism experience, we can assure that our tourists will stay longer and come back again and again,” she added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile