Cebu hosts inaugural UN Gastronomy Tourism Forum for Asia and the Pacific

(Left to right) Ms. Idoia Calleja, Director of Masters and Courses at the Basque Culinary Center, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism, Ms. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines, Lapu-lapu Congresswoman Cindy Chan, and Junard Chan, Mayor of Lapu-Lapu City.
(Left to right) Ms. Idoia Calleja, Director of Masters and Courses at the Basque Culinary Center, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism, Ms. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines, Lapu-lapu Congresswoman Cindy Chan, and Junard Chan, Mayor of Lapu-Lapu City.

Cebu, Philippines — The First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific, organized by UN Tourism in collaboration with the Basque Culinary Center and the Government of the Philippines, took place on June 26, 2024, in Cebu. The forum, held at Shangri-La Mactan, brought together over 500 delegates, including ministers, affiliate members, and tourism stakeholders from international organizations, to explore the transformative power of gastronomy tourism.

The First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific, organized by UN Tourism in collaboration with the Basque Culinary Center and the Government of the Philippines.
The First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific, organized by UN Tourism in collaboration with the Basque Culinary Center and the Government of the Philippines.
The forum, held at Shangri-La Mactan, brought together over 500 delegates, including ministers, affiliate members, and tourism stakeholders from international organizations, to explore the transformative power of gastronomy tourism.
The forum, held at Shangri-La Mactan, brought together over 500 delegates, including ministers, affiliate members, and tourism stakeholders from international organizations, to explore the transformative power of gastronomy tourism.

Driven by the growing interest in authentic food experiences among travellers, the forum aimed to highlight the substantial opportunities gastronomy tourism presents for sustainable socio-economic development, cultural exchange, and community well-being. The theme for the event, “Gastronomy Tourism for People and Planet,” emphasized the sector's potential to benefit local communities and the environment.

The forum featured a series of sessions designed to exchange knowledge and best practices in gastronomy tourism. According to a preliminary programme released by UN Tourism, the event included discussions on developing a policy framework for gastronomy tourism, strategies for promoting local products, and cost-effective methods for reducing food waste.

Opening ceremony and highlights

The opening ceremony featured notable figures such as Junard Chan, Mayor of Lapu-Lapu City, Ms. Idoia Calleja, Director of Masters and Courses at the Basque Culinary Center, H.E. Ms. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines, and Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism.

Mayor Junard Chan of Lapu-Lapu City.
Mayor Junard Chan of Lapu-Lapu City.

In his opening speech, Mayor Chan emphasized the integral role of food in Filipino history and identity, highlighting local delicacies such as ‘puso’ (hanging rice), ‘kinilaw’ (traditional Filipino ceviche), and ‘lechon’ (roasted pig). “Food making is an integral part of our history and identity, both as Filipinos and as Cebuanos,” he said. Mayor Chan welcomed the delegates to Cebu, promising them a memorable experience.

In addition, Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco also made her heartfelt welcome by highlighting the significance of hosting this landmark event in Cebu, a province rich in history and cultural heritage.

Ms. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines.
Ms. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Philippines.

"We’re deeply honored by the confidence conferred upon our nation by United Nations Tourism and its member states to host this inaugural global event," said Secretary Frasco. "Cebu, with over half a millennium of recorded history and deeply embedded cultural heritage, is the fitting venue for our explorations and discussions today and in the next few days."

Frasco recounted the historical encounter in 1521 when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his fleet arrived in the Philippines, welcomed by Filipino ancestors with warmth, hospitality, and a feast. This event marked the beginning of a long period of cultural and culinary influence that has come to define Filipino identity.

In her previous statement issued via the Department of Tourism, Ms. Frasco cited the late chef Anthony Bourdain’s praise for Cebu’s lechon and Pampanga’s sisig, as well as food critic Andrew Zimmern’s declaration that Filipino food is “the next big thing.

Ms. Frasco also noted that the Philippines' gastronomy tourism market was valued at USD 5.4 billion in 2022, with a projected annual growth rate of 14.7% over the next decade. As part of its National Tourism Development Plan (2023-2028), the Department of Tourism is keen on developing more culinary tours, festivals, dining destinations, and food trail activities. These initiatives aim to promote the country’s diverse gastronomy tourism offerings, recognizing food as a crucial element in enhancing the Philippine cultural experience.

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism.
Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism.

Mr. Pololikashvili delivered a keynote speech expressing his vision for an educational gastronomic center to enhance education on gastronomy for tourism in the Philippines. He highlighted the center's potential to boost sustainable tourism and strengthen cultural exchange.

Chef Cheng's innovative approach to culinary arts and commitment to sustainable practices have earned him this prestigious recognition as UN Tourism Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism.
Chef Cheng's innovative approach to culinary arts and commitment to sustainable practices have earned him this prestigious recognition as UN Tourism Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism.

After the keynote speeches, Chef Vicky Cheng of VEA Restaurant in Hong Kong, China, was formally named the UN Tourism Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism

Ministerial Dialogue and Panel Discussions

Ministerial Dialogue moderated by Ms. Sandra Carvao, Director of Market Intelligence, Policies, and Competitiveness at UN Tourism, the session included speakers such as Secretary Frasco, Mrs. Martini M. Paham from Indonesia, Mr. Jakkaphon Tangsutthitham from Thailand, Mr. Mitsuaki Hoshino from Japan, and Ms. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes from Macao.
Ministerial Dialogue moderated by Ms. Sandra Carvao, Director of Market Intelligence, Policies, and Competitiveness at UN Tourism, the session included speakers such as Secretary Frasco, Mrs. Martini M. Paham from Indonesia, Mr. Jakkaphon Tangsutthitham from Thailand, Mr. Mitsuaki Hoshino from Japan, and Ms. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes from Macao.

A key session, the Ministerial Dialogue, focused on fostering policies to advance a roadmap on gastronomy tourism. Moderated by Ms. Sandra Carvao, Director of Market Intelligence, Policies, and Competitiveness at UN Tourism, the session included speakers such as Secretary Frasco, Mrs. Martini M. Paham from Indonesia, Mr. Jakkaphon Tangsutthitham from Thailand, Mr. Mitsuaki Hoshino from Japan, and Ms. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes from Macao. The discussion highlighted the importance of enhancing brand positioning, diversifying products, and promoting territorial inclusiveness for destinations.

When Gastronomy Meets the Territory: Insights by Asia Pacific Destinations discussion moderated by Ms. Kyoko Nakayama, Official Columnist for Forbes Japan, the panel included speakers such as Prof. Nishantha Sampath Punchihewa from Sri Lanka, Mr. Junichi Kumada from Japan, Ms. Doreen Alicia Gamboa from the Philippines, and Ms. Clang Garcia from Food Holidays (Philippines).
When Gastronomy Meets the Territory: Insights by Asia Pacific Destinations discussion moderated by Ms. Kyoko Nakayama, Official Columnist for Forbes Japan, the panel included speakers such as Prof. Nishantha Sampath Punchihewa from Sri Lanka, Mr. Junichi Kumada from Japan, Ms. Doreen Alicia Gamboa from the Philippines, and Ms. Clang Garcia from Food Holidays (Philippines).

Another significant session, “When Gastronomy Meets the Territory: Insights by Asia Pacific Destinations,” explored the value of land and local products in sustainable gastronomy tourism. Moderated by Ms. Kyoko Nakayama, Official Columnist for Forbes Japan, the panel included speakers such as Prof. Nishantha Sampath Punchihewa from Sri Lanka, Mr. Junichi Kumada from Japan, Ms. Doreen Alicia Gamboa from the Philippines, and Ms. Clang Garcia from Food Holidays (Philippines).

Looking Ahead

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) is committed to further promoting culinary tourism. Under its National Tourism Development Plan (2023-2028) and the “Love the Philippines” campaign, the DOT is developing more culinary tours, festivals, and food trail activities to enhance the country’s position as a leading gastronomy destination in Asia.

Secretary Frasco emphasized the importance of gastronomy tourism in driving sustainable economic growth and enhancing the Philippine cultural experience. “Food is a crucial element in enhancing the Philippine cultural experience. We are actively working towards supporting the development of halal/Muslim-friendly tourism, heritage villages for cultural communities, and the preservation of farms and heritage sites,” she said.

The First UN Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific not only highlighted the potential of gastronomy tourism but also reinforced the Philippines’ status as a vibrant culinary destination. With the full support of stakeholders, the event marked a significant step towards harnessing the power of gastronomy tourism for the benefit of local communities and the environment.

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