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John Paul Cabalza or JP, the young and dynamic president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) is wearing two hats this year - that of President of the 500-strong PTAA and Chairman of the 21st Travel Tour Expo scheduled Feb. 14 to 16, 2014 at the SMX Convention Center.
Their theme is very apt, which is 'Love Life, Love Travel' and among the exciting expo innovations will be the bigger participation of the Philippine Airlines who will occupy almost 1,000 square meters of space at the second floor to better serve those who will purchase air tickets at huge discounts! In previous expos, PAL's booths were always the most sought after with very long queues and waiting time, sometimes lasting 2 to 3 hours.
The expo expects close to 400 exhibitors that include airlines, hotels, resorts, country clubs, travel agencies, tour operators, transportation companies, and foreign embassies. In last year's expo, PTAA joined forces with the Japanese Embassy as well as Japanese firms to encourage expo participants to support Japan's need for more visitors after the major tsunami that hit northern Japan in 2011 and displaced thousands of people. The yearly PTAA expo has become a popular venue for countries like Japan who need support of the ever growing travelling population of the world.
I asked JP about how the traditional travel agencies, most of which are PTAA members, stay relevant in this era of 'online travel booking agents' or 'OTA's' who have already gained tremendous ground in terms of hotel room bookings. JP is quick to tell me that although they have learned to adapt to the changing times, travel agencies still play a very crucial role for the 'MICE' market (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) where personalized service is still the key. "PTAA provides continuing education to its members on how they can stay relevant and needed," he added.