U.S. Private Sector Empowers Philippine Small and Medium-sized Enterprises with Knowledge on Sustainable Tourism Model and Digital Transformation  

(Manila) – More than 165 owners and executives of travel and tourism small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Manila and surrounding cities participated in a full-day workshop on May 3 titled, “Strengthening a Sustainable Tourism Model for SMEs in Digital Transformation.” The workshop was a joint initiative of the US-ASEAN Business Council, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) with support from the Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC), the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT).

“This workshop combines two rapidly evolving areas in Asia’s economy,” said Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director at the US-ASEAN Business Council in his welcoming remarks. “First, the ‘digital economy’ is fast becoming just the ‘economy,’ and with its young population and exploding connectivity, ASEAN is at the forefront of next-generation economic growth.  Second, tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the ASEAN economy and the Philippines with its thousands of beautiful islands is well positioned to take advantage of the vigorous growth in this industry.”

Although the Council has conducted more than 45 SME workshops across ASEAN since 2011, this was the second capacity-building workshop focused specifically on SMEs in the travel and tourism industry after the first such workshop was held in Bangkok last year. Council members Cisco, Marriott International, Coca-Cola and Google shared their expertise on promoting greater economic inclusivity and utilization of digital tools to the SME participants at the May 3 workshop.

“Marriott International is extremely optimistic about the tourism potential the Philippines has to offer in the next few years,” said Bruce Winton, Cluster General Manager at Marriott International on the workshop session. “Our robust growth in the next three years can only be truly successful with the partnership of local SMEs, government and our inclusive engagement with the communities we are entering, in addition of course with the developers we are partnering with.  We are excited not only by the potential this offers, but by the creative minds, innovative ideas and forward-thinking potential partners we have met today."

Ambassador Michalak officially opened the workshop, joined by John C. Law, Deputy Chief of Mission for U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, Ms. Ma Bing Sibal-Limjoco, CFE, President of PCCI, Mr. Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., Undersecretary of Tourism Development Planning DOT and Ms. Zenaida Cuison Maglaya, Undersecretary of Regional Operations Group Philippine DTI.

“This event is timely as our country transforms to a digital economy,” said Ms. Ma Bing Sibal-Limjoco in her remarks.  “Our SMEs compose 99.6 percent of registered enterprises in the country and must seize the benefits of digital transformation. They must evolve to address the changing business landscape and address the ever-changing taste and preference of consumers.”

“The Philippines, through the Department of Tourism, is fully aware of the need to empower our small- and medium-scale businesses to compete and channel the benefits of a progressive tourism industry to the people on the ground,” said Mr. Benito C. Bengzon. “This is true not only in the Philippines and ASEAN, but for every country whose economic development is largely influenced by travel and tourism.”

“MSMEs have the utmost potential to gain benefits from swelling numbers of tourists in the country,” said Ms. Zenaida Cuison Maglaya. “There is a need for MSMEs to be more open to technology and innovation in maximizing opportunities in the tourism industry, because technology is a great equalizer.  It is now the time for MSMEs to catch up with sustainable tourism model, to be digital and go global. DTI will always provide 360-degree assistance to MSMEs in the country."

More than 6,500 SMEs have benefited from Council’s SME workshops in all ten ASEAN Member States.  In the Philippines alone, the Council has conducted six workshops, five times in Manila and once in Cebu. In 2016, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy (www.asean-sme-academy.org), a self-help and self-paced online learning platform for SMEs, offering free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies.

From left to right: Ms. Elizabeth Magsaysay-Crebassa (Senior Country Representative – ASEAN, Philippines, US-ASEAN Business Council), Ms. Ma. Flordeliza C. Leong (Chairperson, SME Advocacy Committee, PCCI; Asst. Vice President, Advocacy and Communications Department, PHILEXPORT); Ambassador Michael W. Michalak (Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, US-ASEAN Business Council); John C. Law (Deputy Chief of Mission for U.S Embassy in the Philippines); Mr. Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. (Undersecretary of Tourism Development Planning, DOT); Ms. Ma. Bing Sibal-Limjoco, CFE (President of PCCI); Ms. Zenaida Cuison Maglaya (Undersecretary of Regional Operations Group, DTI); Ms. Jonah De Lumen – Pernia (Director of Public Affairs and Communication at the Coca-Cola Company); Ms. Anna Vergara (General Manager at Sheraton Manila Hotel); Mr. Roberto P. Alabado III (Assistant Secretary for the Tourism Development Planning, DOT); Mr. Warner M. Andrada (OIC – Office of Tourism Development Planning, Research and Information Management, DOT); Mr. Allan P. Bacho (Officer-in-charge, Business Management Training Services Division PTTC); and Mr. Mario Masaya (Senior Manager – SME Initiatives, ASEAN, Indonesia, ICT, US-ASEAN Business Council)

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For 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership, more than 160 companies, generate over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people globally. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.