PATA International Conference on Women in Travel Shines Spotlight on Gender Equality

PATA International Conference on Women in Travel Shines Spotlight on Gender Equality - VISITPHILIPPINES.orgBohol, Philippines, March 23, 2024 / TRAVELINDEX / The inaugural PATA International Conference on Women in Travel, organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and hosted by the Department of Tourism, Philippines, concluded on Friday, March 22, 2024, at the BE Grand Resort in Bohol, Philippines. With nearly 200 delegates from 15 destinations in attendance, the conference brought together industry leaders, policymakers, and advocates to discuss the critical role of women in the travel and tourism sector.

Throughout the three-day event, delegates explored the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the travel industry, celebrating their achievements and addressing gender disparities. Keynote speakers, influential panellists, and engaging discussions highlighted the pressing need for gender equality and empowerment in the tourism workforce, emphasising the importance of inclusivity and career growth for all ‘women in travel’.

Pressing issues such as the underrepresentation of women in senior management positions were addressed in the conference. Discussions also focused on actionable steps to promote women’s leadership development, foster entrepreneurship, and advance sustainable practices with women as agents of change.

Delivering her keynote message at the preeminent event, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco welcomed hundreds of speakers and delegates from the Philippines and all over the world, including Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

I would like to express my profound gratitude to PATA for its partnership with the Philippines in the inaugural holding of the International Conference on Women in Travel. Holding this conference in the Philippines is timely, especially here where over 50 percent of the workforce of our country is composed of women, and here in our region in the Asia Pacific, where nearly 50 percent of the tourism industry is composed of women. We recognize the importance of this conference focusing on empowering women, tourism professionals, promoting gender equality, fostering leadership stories, successes, and opportunities,” Secretary Frasco said.

In her keynote remarks, Secretary Frasco also shared before delegates her fair share of challenges of juggling official duties as a woman leader and a mother of four children, from her tenure as a three-term Mayor of the Municipality of Liloan in Cebu amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Supertyphoon Odette that hit Cebu in 2021, and now as Secretary of the DOT and the youngest member of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s cabinet upon the President’s invitation in 2022.

I recognize that countless women must similarly confront the challenge of juggling work with caregiving responsibilities, and unfortunately, many of these significant sacrifices go unnoticed and underappreciated,” Secretary Frasco said.

“Which is why ever since I came into the fold of the DOT, it became my mission to ensure that the efforts of the Department must not only be focused on achieving numbers and targets, rather, it must also focus on ensuring the well-being of our workforce, dedicated to building a tourism industry that ensures that we put tourism workers at the forefront of the government’s priorities, particularly, women, who play a pivotal role in shaping our tourism landscape—from our female guides, all the way to our female officials. I sought to leverage the feminist values that guided me as Mayor: sensitivity, nurturance, humanity, and love, and extend them to a national scale, ensuring that the tourism sector serves not only as a vehicle of economic prosperity, but also as a force for promoting human dignity,” the DOT chief added.

Towards this direction, the DOT, for the first time ever, has appointed Tourism Integrates, Supports, and Minds Women’s Rights and Child Safety (TourISM WoRCS) Officers across the regions in the country to ensure that the Philippines “remains a woman- and child-safe destination”, with the Tourism Worcs manual soon to be rolled out among the Department’s various operational units to equip them with the knowledge and tools to effectively combat sexual harassment, trafficking and gender-based violence within the sector.

Furthermore, in a bid to herald the unique and world-renowned brand of Filipino hospitality and invest in the Filipino workforce, Secretary Frasco shared the DOT’s attainment of its target of training 100,000 workers on the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE) program in 2023. The DOT surpassed this goal, having trained 127,125 workers trained on the FBSE last year. Of this, 70,208 or 55.2% of the trained workforce are women.

“This milestone sets a resoundingly optimistic tone for our industry, affirming our long-held belief that women can and should access meaningful opportunities within the tourism sector,” Secretary Frasco said.

“As a result of the unwavering commitment of Tourism Secretary H.E. Christina Garcia Fransco and the steadfast support provided by the Department of Tourism Philippines, this inaugural conference was an enormous success. Building on this outcome, PATA remains committed to organising the PATA International Conference on Women in Travel with other member destinations in the future to ensure that conversations on women’s empowerment can continue and be elevated,” said PATA CEO Noor Ahmad Hamid.

He added, “As a community, we must unite to discuss tangible strategies aimed at breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and implementing industry-wide changes that pave the pathways for women to excel in the travel industry. It is the Association’s wish that this event served as a catalyst for impactful initiatives and collaborative efforts towards a better future for women in all facets of tourism.”

To further highlight the significance of women’s leadership, Senator Loren Legarda, Senate President Pro-Tempore, Senate of the Philippines, delivered the closing keynote, emphasising the need for concerted efforts to achieve gender parity in the sector.

During the conference, delegates had the chance to hear from a diverse line-up of inspiring speakers from various sectors, including Senator Loren Legarda, Senate President Pro-Tempore, Senate of the Philippines; H.E. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary, Department of Tourism, Philippines; the Honourable Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado, Governor of the Province of Bohol; Atty. Mae Elaine T. Bathan, Undersecretary, Legal and Special Concerns and Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary and Chairperson, Gender and Development Focal Point System of the Department of Tourism, Philippines; Dr. Saninuj “PONG” Sawasdikosol, DM, President of San Travel Service & Business Consultants / Woman Activist & Advocate in LGBTQ Community, San Francisco; Maria Patria Alodia Puyat, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Philippines; Christine Ella Castañeda, DEAFInite Tour Guide; Aye Mya Mya Soe, General Manager – Cambodia, Intrepid Travel; Chieko Yokota, Gender Specialist, Gender Equality Division, Asian Development Bank (ADB); Preeti Naini, Regional Product Manager, APAC, Go City; Queenie Chung, Deputy General Manager, Vpon HK; Ha Lam, Founder, The Happy Firm; Linda Adami, Founder and CEO, Quantum Temple; Maria Paz Alberto, Chair, PATA Philippine Chapter; Nandini Lahe Thapa, Officiating CEO, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB); Dr. Supawan Teerarat, PhD., President, National Food Institute, Foundation of Industrial Development, Ministry of Industry, Thailand and Former Senior Vice President of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, Prime Minister’s Office; Catherine Turvill, President Nurture Wellness Village, Nurture Farmacy, Spa & Wellness Professionals, Philippines; Shradha Shrestha, Manager, Nepal Tourism Board and National Project Coordinator, Sustainable Tourism for Livelihood Recovery Project, Nepal, and Sangeetha Liyanapathirana, Manager – Health, Hygiene and Sustainability, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts and 2023 PATA Face of the Future, Sri Lanka.

Topics included ‘Breaking Barriers: Women’s Empowerment in the Travel Industry’, ‘Gender Equality and Development’, ‘Women Behind the Scenes’, ‘Tourism Startups and Entrepreneurship’, ‘Leading the Way: Inspirational Women in Travel’, and ‘Sustainable Travel: Women as Agents of Change’.

The conference concluded with a welcome dinner reception hosted by the Tourism Promotions Board, Philippines, providing delegates with networking opportunities and continued discussions on joint efforts in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in travel and tourism.

On the final day of the programme, delegates had the option of joining two different technical tours arranged by the Department of Tourism, Philippines:

Southern Bohol Circuit Tour, where participants explored the wonders of Southern Bohol, including a visit to Santa Monica Parish Church of Alburquerque, experiencing the making of Bohol’s popular delicacy ‘Calamay’, and engaging in a variety of activities at the Bohol Bee Farm;
Bohol Countryside Tour, where delegates took a relaxing journey through the Bohol Countryside, explored the geological marvels of the Chocolate Hills and drifted down the Loboc River on a serene cruise.

About PATA
Founded in 1951, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a not-for-profit membership association that acts as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific region. The Association provides aligned advocacy, insightful research and innovative events to its member organisations, which includes government, state and city tourism bodies; international airlines and airports; hospitality organisations, and educational institutions, as well as thousands of young tourism professional (YTP) members across the world. The PATA network also embraces the grassroots activism of the PATA Chapters and Student Chapters, who organise numerous travel industry training programmes and business development events across the world. Thousands of travel professionals belong to the 32 local PATA Chapters worldwide, while hundreds of students are members of the 28 PATA Student Chapters globally. The PATAmPOWER platform delivers unrivalled data, forecasts and insights from the PATA Strategic Intelligence Centre to members’ desktops and mobile devices anywhere in the world. PATA’s Head Office has been in Bangkok since 1998. The Association also has an official office in Beijing. Visit

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