By Zsarlene B. Chua

GET READY ONCE MORE for long lines snaking around the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City as the Philippine Travel Mart returns for its 27th staging from Sept. 2 to 4. This time more than 200 companies — from travel agencies and tour operators to food and merchandise purveyors — are joining.

Philippine Travel Mart focuses on the peripatetic Millennial

But while many things remain the same, including very good travel deals, what seems to be different in this year’s mart is the apparent focus towards the travelling generation, the millennials, as this set of young travelers are looking for roads less traveled — a demand the four day event is keen on addressing.

“Traveling is part of their lifestyle. It’s a question of where do they want to go?” said Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), the organizer of the travel mart, during a press conference on Aug. 24 at the Makati Diamond Residences.

He added that destinations on sale — to cater to the millennials — “shouldn’t be gasgas” (worn out, a typical tourist spot) and should answer the question, “will I be the first one to post this on Facebook?”

“These are the categories the millennials are looking for,” he said in vernacular.

Of course, the price is also a big draw.

“Based on our study, the average expenditure that they are [willing] to spend on a weekend — or a two-night, three-day — holiday is within the range of P5,000 to P 10,000,” Mr. Cruz said, adding that the millennials don’t care much about the kind of accommodation — they are in it for the experience.

He then cited several packages that falls into those categories, including a trip to Sta. Ana, Cagayan with a side trip to Palaui Island; a trip to Polillo Island in Quezon province; another trip package covering Romblon; and, a visit to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato among others. The packages will start at P1,500 per person.

“These are places not unknown to the millennial market but they are not covered by the tourism standards. What we’re trying to do here now is to put these destinations and these products and begin the mainstream tourism [to these places],” he said, stressing the need to develop a destination with a focus on safety because “anything that happens [in this destination] will be reflective of the industry.”

Mr. Cruz also presented city-based tours which are in response to the harrowing traffic situation, “to lessen the driving between cities” as is usual during Metro Manila-based tours.

“So if you’re touring Manila, you’ll stay in Manila, there’s no need to go to Makati,” he said.

The city tours are “thematic,” including a tour which will retrace Jose Rizal’s last walk before he was executed in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park). Other products include a Binondo food trip, and a culinary tour of nearby provinces such as Pampanga and Cavite.

“Pack and Go” tours will also be offered: these are the tours which will utilize public transportation to get to destinations such as Laoag in Ilocos Norte or Vigan in Ilocos Sur, among others. Packages starts at P4,500 per person.

Also included in the travel mart are special packages which will bundle ASEAN destinations plus Japan, Korea and China together with local destinations in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Other activities during the travel mart include chorale and cultural dance competitions, among others.

Last year, the Philippine Travel Mart generated on-site sales worth approximately P120 million, a number Mr. Cruz said they hope to increase by “15% to 20%” with this year’s iteration. Likewise, the travel mart is expecting the same percentage of growth in terms of visitor count as last year’s mart welcomed “almost 58,000” visitors.

The Philippine Travel Mart will be held from Sept. 2 to 4 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.