(MALAYA) The Tourism Press Corps, Inc., (TPCI) finally had its formal launch last June 24 at the New World Renaissance Hotel in Makati.

TPCI is a non-profit, non-stock organization composed of tourism and travel trade journalists representing the Philippines' top tri-media outfits. The members are professional and respected media practitioners with several years of experience in covering the tourism and travel trade sectors.

The TPCI aims to uplift the level of professionalism in the tourism media, provide a forum for the discussion of pertinent issues facing the Philippines' tourism industry, and bridge the gap between the media and travel industry professionals to ensure a closer and smoother working relationship.

Atty. Alejandra Clemente, president of the Philippine Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines, inducted the officers: Randy Urlanda of Philippine Panorama as chairman emeritus, Arlene Dabu-Foz of the Manila Bulletin, president; Buddy Recio of Travel Update, vice president; this writer, representing TravelWeekly, secretary; Divine Montealgre of Travel Update, treasurer; Ollie Quiniquini of TravelAsia, external PRO; Gie Santiago of Shipping and Travel Journal (STJ), internal PR; and Angie Montealegre, Travel Update, Ben Briones, Philippine News Agency, Gynna Gagelonia, Manila Tribune, and Leo Santiago, STJ, as directors.

It is a small group, and as Buddy put it, "It is quality and not quantity."

TCPI advisers are Rod Dula, editor of Malaya travel section and Marian Catedral, Caltex Corporate Affairs Manager.

Most of the officers are founding members of the press corps organized by the Department of Tourism during the time of former secretary Eduardo Pilapil in the mid-90s. That induction was quickly organized but incorporating the group took some time. Six years to be exact.

For the meantime, as Arlene said in her speech during the induction, tourism secretaries had come and gone. There was a particular time when hardly anything was happening in the industry but the group remained solid. "We have activated the group again to assist the key players in uplifting the industry," she told guests, who were composed of the industry's Who's Who.

Six years is a long time. Philippine contemporary history has been marked by three presidents being sent to Malacanang and four secretaries to the Department of Tourism. The industry had peaked, fallen and has slowly recovered. From P26:US$1, the peso had dropped to unbelievable lows because of the Asian crisis, the crippling Philippine Airlines pilot strike, EDSA uprisings and Abu Sayyaf Group kidnappings.

Among the founding directors three children and two grandchildren were born. Buddy and wife Divine, his son and sister-in-law Angie, were kidnapped by the ASG and fortunately lived to tell the tale. Some have gone to cover other beats. Publications of some have folded up.

And those who have remained loyal to the beat are now part of the TCPI. Among them, they have covered the Philippines from Batanes down to Tawi-Tawi and a good part of the globe too. While doing travelogues is usually always a welcome coverage, it is just one of the many tasks that the members have to do. The harder part of the job entails pursuing industry trends and issues.

In her speech, Atty Clemente presented a good overview of news leads. Some issues are new and some are the same we have been hearing since six years ago and have remained unresolved. She challenged the government to address the issue on peace and order situation, air access and infrastructures.

Zeroing on air access, she stressed it was time to review, pursue and conclude bilateral agreements with countries within the region and with US. "Lets us not think of tourism alone when we touch on the subject but the beneficiary of liberal air policy is the increase opportunities in trade, investment and commerce."

Poor infrastructure has put a cap on the potentials of the country. "Thirty-one years ago when tourism started to boom, the primary destination was Manila and Cebu was the secondary destination, " she said. "It is still the same. Let's look seriously at the tourism masterplan if we want to create new destinations and new products." In this regard, she said road, airport and seaport access must be improved.

The private sector should also do its part, she said. "There is lack of harmony and understanding among the private sector. There is no unified action and cohesion in the planning and implementation of marketing programs. The private sector is so divided and narrow-minded.

"The tourism industry is in crisis, the survival of our business is threatened by a multitude if external and internal factors. But we will survive. The federation, with all its existing members, will try to work together to attain our common objectives," she stated.

Atty. Clemente saw the TPCI as the industry partner in creating public awareness and convincing national leadership of the importance of tourism in the country's overall economic development.

TPCI has been organizing regular industry fora which serve as venues for industry players, both national and regional, to discuss relevant issues and concerns. Other projects are currently on the drawing board.

The TCPI induction celebration was made possible through the all-out support of New World Renaissance Hotel general manager Stephan Stoss, director for communications Monique Toda and director for event management Susan Roxas.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved