Philippines, Tourism Board win top Uzakrota Travel Awards

by Ricky Rillera

| Image by Uzakorota Travel Awards

NEW YORK – Fresh from having two of its island beaches included in Conde Nast’s Traveler’s 25 Best Island Beaches in the World: 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards list in January, the Philippines was again recognized Feb. 8 during the 10th Uzakrota Travel Awards in its “Best of the Year” competition.

The Philippines topped the World’s Leading Country Destination (#36) category with 1,733 votes, edging Turkey by mere three points at 1,730, and the Dominican Republic with 935 votes. Also, the Philippines placed third in the World’s Leading Tourist Board (#37) category, obtaining 1,289 votes. The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board was first with 1,497, followed by the Turkey Tourism Promotion and Development Agency, with 1,390 votes.

After the registration between Jan. 18-24, 2021, the public voting began through Uzakcrota’s website on Jan. 25 until midnight of Feb. 5. Uzakrota received 182,475 votes worldwide and distributed to 45 categories of the competition. Also, organizers gave Uzakcrota Special Awards to five tourism professionals. They announced the winners on Feb. 8 on the Uzakrota website.

Uzakrota will present the awards to the winners and the 2021 awardees at the Uzakrota Global Summit in Istanbul on Dec. 2.

Joebert Opulencia

Joebert Opulencia, president of Orientours of New York, was ecstatic with the results. He has been actively encouraging Filipinos worldwide to cast their votes, which the Philippines eventually took honors.

“I believe it is nice to have the Philippines the talk of the town,” he said. “As you may have seen, I tried to make noise, through my personal Facebook page, to keep our country at the top of people’s minds where to go when better days come. I was doing it even before this new COVID-19 variant came.”

The Uzakrota Travel Awards, organized by one of the world’s ten largest tourism organizations, is a global initiative to recognize and reward excellence in travel and tourism. They invite travel agencies, tourism tech firms, hotels, agencies serving the tourism industry, and the media from Turkey and other countries to attend their trade show in Turkey.

According to Opulencia, the Philippines has participated in the competition in the past years. In 2019, he attended the Global Summit in Turkey. He represented Orientours New York. DOT Undersecretary Benito “Bong” Bengzon, Jr., Luis Cabrera, President & CEO, Lonely Planet, Gerard Panga, DOT Tourism Attache in London, Philippine Ambassador to Turkey Raul Hernandez, and his wife, Mrs. Ana Algabre Hernandez, also attended.

From left, DOT Tourism Attache in London, Gerard “Gerry” Panga, DOT Asst. Undersecretary Verna Covar Buensuceso, DOT Undersecretary Benito “Bong” Bengzon, Jr., Ambassador Raul Hernandez, Ambassador of the Philippines to Turkey, Mrs. Ana Algabre Hernandez, and Joebert Opulencia – President of Orientours (New York)
Francisco M. Lardizabal

Reached by the Philippine Daily Mirror for comments, Francisco M. Lardizabal, Tourism Director-Attache in New York, said the Department of Tourism is truly honored and thankful for the Philippines’ accolades at the recent Uzakrota Travel. “The citations bring immense pride not only to the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) but to the entire country as well.”

He added that these would not have been possible without the combined efforts from the Philippine tourism stakeholders, local government units, partner agencies, and Filipinos who have tirelessly promoted the country’s attractions, products, and culture and voted for the Philippines and the TPB.

“We also like to express our gratitude to our tourism partners in Turkey who also gave their share of votes for the Philippines and TPB,” Lardizabal said. “We see the award as an affirmation of the successful marketing initiatives we initiated in the Mediterranean region five years ago. We draw inspiration from this warm reception and solid vote of confidence from our satisfied patrons.”

Lardizabal also conveyed his optimism that the inclusion of the Philippines in Uzakrota’s prestigious list “will inspire more people to regain the confidence to travel, helping the Philippines’ tourism industry to recover after this challenging period.”

Both Opulencia and Lardizabel have regularly engaged the community to provide travel and tourism updates, including regulations and quarantine requirements through a virtual Kapihan series hosted by the Fil-Am Press Club of New York. They have had guests representing Philippines’ and US travel, tourism, hospitality industry, the DOT, and the consulate in New York.

“In our journey towards tourism revival, sustainable, inclusive, and responsible tourism development shall continue to be the core principles of the Department of Tourism and TPB,” Lardizabal said.

| Video courtesy of The Tourism Promotions Board in collaboration with world renowned artist and Philippine Tourism Ambassador

In 2020, the DOT received a string of awards and recognition from several travel publications and institutions. Among others, these include:

  • Conde Nast’s 25 Best Island Beaches in the World with White Beach, Boracay (2nd), and El Nido, Palawan (9th).
  • 27th World Travel Awards with the Philippines as the World’s Leading Dive Destination and Intramuros as the World Leading Tourist Attraction
  • 27th World Travel Awards Asia with the Philippines as Asia’s Leading Beach Destination, Dive Destination and the DOT as Leading Tourist Board in Asia (top among 11 nominated countries)
  • Big 7 Travel’s List of 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World (Palawan, 8th) and Boracay, (18th)
  • Conde Nast Traveler’s (CNT 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards (Cebu and Visayas Island) in Top Ten Islands in Asia
  • Marine Diving Awards with the Philippines as the Best Overseas Diving Area (“First pick for many diving lovers”)
  • Travel + Leisure with Palawan as the Best Island in the World
  • Conde Nast Traveler (CNT) Hidden Beach in El Nido, 30 Best Beaches in the World (June)
  • Forbes Magazine citation (Top 7 countries “that have the potential to become a major tourist destination in a post-COVID world.”

According to the DOT, Boracay and El Nido are open to domestic tourists from GCQ and MGCQ areas with health and safety protocols. More info available at or download the Travel Philippines app at

Through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the DOT encourages domestic tourists to avail themselves of the 50 percent subsidized RT-PCR tests to make travel more affordable. In collaboration with the University of the Philippines – Philippines General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), the program brings down the test cost to P900 and P750, respectively. To apply, visit

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