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Davao City’s private sector tourism group has new president

DAVAO CITY (PIA)-- A 35-year old businesswoman is the new Davao Tourism Association (DATA) president.

Nicole Hao Bian Ledesma, the chief operating officer of the Joji Ilagan (JIB) International Schools and the CEO of Sans Hotel by Luxebridge, takes the mantle of leadership from businesswoman Cherry Faye Al-ag.

During the installation of DATA’s board of trustees held on June 5 at the Vanda Room of Park Inn by Radisson Davao, Ledesma took her oath of office along with the Board of Trustees and committee chairpersons.

Among the new DATA officers who also took their oath of office were Lynn Barlis Navarro of St. Citha Blue Corp. (Vice President), Edna Villegas Cheng of Gap Farming Resort (Secretary), Ronald Go of Ecotrans (Treasurer), Pia Montano of Par Travel and Tours (Auditor). Immediate Past President Cherry Faye Al-ag of Elysia Wellness and Spa assumes the role as the board’s Ex-Officio member.

Ledesma joined DATA in 2017 representing the family-owned JIB international school known for offering tourism related academic courses. She served in several committees before being elected in 2022 as the association’s vice president for academe and education.

She cited her passion for the tourism industry, the drive to excel and the willingness to serve as her pillar in serving DATA for nearly six years. Ledesma recalled her love for the industry started when she was growing up as her mother would take her to various industry engagements.

DATA immediate past president Cherry Faye Al-ag (second from left) turns over the DATA flag to Nicole Hao Bian Ledesma (third from right). Flanking them are former DATA presidents (from left) Mary Anne Montemayor, Gene Bangayan and Joji Ilagan Bian.

Ledesma’s mother, Joji Ilagan Bian is a well-known and highly respected business leader in Davao City who trailblazed tourism-related specialized education in this part of the country. Ms. Bian also previously served as DATA president.

“Seeing the collaborative nature that DATA has built for its members and stakeholders amazes me up to now,” Ledesma said in her speech at the installation.

The DATA president is optimistic about the bright prospects of Davao City’s tourism industry with the city government targeting 1.8 million tourists’ arrivals for the year.

“With the resounding success of MICECON last March and many Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE)-related activities in the pipeline I am confident that Davao can surpass its targets,” she added in her speech.

Ledesma said with the industry growth, DATA members should move and think forward to meet the new demands of the sector.

“We must be able to adapt, to innovate to keep abreast of emerging trends and global developments and position ourselves at the forefront of driving the future of our industry,” Ledesma stressed.

Growth through the years

DATA was founded in 1974 by the heads and managers of the different tourism establishments in Davao with the goal of strengthening the local tourism industry and to help the government in promoting the city as a major tourist destination.

Nearly 50 years later DATA has grown into one of the biggest private-sector led tourism association in the south of the country, and the synergy of DATA and the government has been cited as Davao City’s tourism strength.

With its dynamism the association has been an active partner in large-scale events in the city such as the MICE Convention held in February of this year in which DATA’s members and officers became active members and workhorses of the MICECON 2023 Davao Organizing Committee.

“We at the Department of Tourism greatly appreciate the efforts of DATA in engaging the private sector to work with the government in its thrust to develop tourism,” said DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderossa-Abubakar, who recognized the long years of fruitful partnership between the government (DOT) and the private sector (DATA).

DATA Past President Cherry Al-ag said the group is recovering and growing as it emerges towards sustained recovery after the sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What started as a membership of 50 members by the end of 202, I am happy to say that by the time my terms end we are 130 members strong and DATA is still growing,” Al-ag said in her message.

Al-ag became DATA president in 2022 with the waning of the pandemic and amidst the challenges and opportunities of the looming upturn. She took the helm from events entrepreneur and restaurateur the late Renato Gatchalian, who steered DATA during the city’s tourism boom years basking under the Duterte presidency until it went crashing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gatchalian's DATA partnered with the City Government and the Department of Health to spearhead the massive "Bakuna By The Sea" tourism workers' vaccination program to jumpstart the sector's recovery from the pandemic. The seaside vaccination program earned accolades and in 2021 was awarded as one of the best tourism practices in the country.

Ledesma paid a glowing tribute to the long journey of the Davao City’s tourism industry giving honor to the men and women of DATA past and present who have contributed to the resilience and growth of the organization.

“Today is a celebration of our collective journey, our growth and our accomplishments as an association and all the people who have made it what it is today. And as we reflect upon the past and look towards the future let us acknowledge the tremendous strides we have made together,” Ledesma said. (RGA/PIA 11)

About the Author

Rudolph Ian Alama

Regional Editor

Region 11

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