AFTER 20 years of existence, the Cebu Tours and Travel Association (CTTA) had its first international familiarization trip, made possible through the sponsorship of Asiana Airlines and Hanatour and Travel, Inc.-Cebu, an affiliate of Hanatour Services, Inc., Korea’s largest travel agency.

CTTA (founded in 1989) is a non-profit organization of established travel agents engaged in outbound and inbound

operations. Its main purpose is to promote/maintain the correct standards in the travel industry. Another major objective is to uphold the interests of its members (35 active DOT-accredited agencies) who form a vital part of Cebu’s tourism industry.

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Among the famtrip participants were two founding members - Marilou Ordoñez of Delmar Travel and Alice Queblatin of Southwind Travel. Alice’s daughter Desiree “Cookie” Chan now sits as president of the organization.

With the all-out support of Asiana Airlines, through its general manager in Cebu Sung Kyoo Park, CTTA organized a famtrip to Korea. It was an eager group of 20 led by Asiana passenger sales rep Leoben Wenceslao who enjoyed and appreciated the service onboard the multi-awarded airline. Yes, Asiana Airlines (whose homebase is Korea) has been named “2010 Airline of the Year” by Skytrax (a world-renowned airline research organization), in addition to the honor of being hailed as “a five-star Airline” for four consecutive years now.

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Hanatour Services, Inc., the mother company of Hanatour-Cebu, undertook the land arrangements of the CTTA team.

Escorting the group were Bryan Lee, sales and marketing director-Cebu branch, and manager Xenia Iway. From the moment of arrival to the time of departure, Hanatour took very good care of the group. In fact they arranged for a very competent guide named Heather (Lim Hye Ran) who was also very pretty.

The itinerary was carefully chosen and proved very interesting. It included not only the usual sightseeing tours but also a foray into a ginseng farm where the owner gave a short lecture on how ginseng is grown and harvested. It takes six years for the gensing plant to fully mature and because it is so demanding, the soil where it is grown becomes unusable for the next 10 years.

And then there was that fun kimchi-making session where everyone tried their hand mixing spices and sauces to coat the cabbage so it makes for a yummy kimchi.

Best of all, that educational morning tour ended on a very colorful note. All the participants were given a Hanbok (Korean costume) to wear for a souvenir photo. It was one big chance for the CTTA members to look and feel Korean even for just 15 minutes.

(Next week: Highlights of the Korea visit)