SEOUL, South Korea – Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco underscored the pivotal role of gastronomy in tourism development and as a catalyst for economic growth and cultural exchange in the Asia Pacific Region.

Frasco, who represented the Philippines as Chair of the UN Tourism Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, made the statement Thursday (May 9) as one of the guest speakers at the 3rd World Tourism Industry Conference (WTIC) and Business Luncheon. The global forum coincided with the opening day of the Seoul International Travel Fair (SITF) 2024, happening from 9 to 12 May 2024.

With the theme, “Gastronomy Tourism:  Harbinger of Industrial Development and Cultural Harmony of the World”, Frasco addressed her tourism counterparts and distinguished guests from the travel and tourism industry present at the event, highlighting the vibrant and diverse gastronomic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region, and the vast benefits that gastronomy brings across the region.

“Gastronomy tourism is not just about indulging in delicious food; it also has immense economic and cultural benefits for the Asia-Pacific region. This form of tourism attracts food enthusiasts from all over the world, creating opportunities for local businesses, farmers, artisans, and the like. It stimulates job creation, promotes sustainable agriculture, and preserves culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations,” Secretary Frasco said, noting the importance of events such as the WTIC and the SITF in recognizing the “immense potential of culinary experiences in attracting tourists and fostering cultural exchange.”

“Gastronomy Tourism will provide the impetus for the success that we all aspire. As we convene today, we stand at a pivotal juncture for international tourism. In 2023, the world welcomed approximately 1.28 billion international tourists, representing a significant 34% increase over the previous year. This resurgence brought us to 88% of our pre-pandemic levels, with key months reaching as high as 92% marking a significant step toward recovering our pre-pandemic vitality,” the DOT chief noted.

Food: Top Driver for Travelers

Frasco also noted that “Food remains the top driver for travelers, reflecting a deeper trend towards authentic cultural experiences and economic support for local communities.”

According to a 2023 report by, 34% of travelers prioritize restaurants and dining experiences, viewing them as gateways to understanding local traditions and lifestyles. This preference for culinary exploration not only enriches the travel experience but also directly benefits local economies by supporting small businesses and producers.

Gastronomy is a priority for the Philippines

The National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028 approved by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., highlights the integration of food and gastronomy within cultural experiences, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of its rich heritage. In line with the goal of diversifying our tourism portfolio through multidimensional tourism, food is considered an essential element in deepening the Philippine cultural experience.

“For example, Iloilo, a province in our country, has recently been recognized as a Creative City for Gastronomy by UNESCO. Additionally, regions such as Western Visayas, the Cordillera Administrative Region, Pampanga, and Cebu are actively engaging in the development of Slow Food programs. These initiatives aim to protect our local produce, ingredients, and culinary traditions by boosting demand for them. This increased demand ensures that local farmers and communities are supported and encouraged to continue cultivating these valuable resources,” Frasco said.

Towards this direction, as may be recalled, the DOT launched various initiatives such as the Philippine Experience Program – a culture, arts, and heritage caravan that highlights our lesser-known and emerging destinations in the country that brings to life the cherished Filipino tradition of ‘Salu-Salo’ or ‘feasting together’, as well as the Philippine Eatsperience bazaar in Intramuros and Rizal Park in Manila launched in celebration of the Filipino Food Month in the country.

PHL to host the First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific

As the Philippines gears up to host the 36th UN Tourism Joint Commission Meeting for East Asia and the Pacific, and the First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific next month in Cebu, Secretary Frasco noted the country’s readiness and commitment to welcome guests and bring in tourism benefits to the region.

“Our leadership in the UN Tourism Commission for East Asia and the Pacific is fully committed to leveraging our region’s strategic position. We are working diligently to capitalize on our unique cultural and natural assets to promote a range of initiatives that will benefit not only our country but also our neighbors,” Secretary Frasco assured.

The WTIC 2024 and Business Luncheon gathered The International Tourism Forum (TITF) and Former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) Korea Chairman Yoo Jin-Ryong; Korea World Travel Fair (KOTFA) and Organizer of the Conference Chairman Shin Joong-Mok; Industry, Commerce and Employment of Bhutan Minister Lyonpo Namgyal Dorji; Tourism and Heritage of Zanzibar Minister Mudrick Ramadhan Soraga; Asia Pacific UN Tourism Regional Director Harry Hwang; and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) CEO Noor Ahmad Hamid.

Also present at the 3rd WTIC as part of the Philippine delegation to the SITF and WTIC were Philippine Ambassador to Korea Maria Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega, Deputy Speaker Duke Frasco, OIC-Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, Assistant Secretary Rica Bueno, and DOT Korea Director Maria Apo.



Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, addresses fellow tourism ministers and industry leaders Thursday (May 9) during the 3rd World Tourism Industry Conference (WTIC) and Business Luncheon in Seoul, Korea.

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