Life & Leisure

Osaka World Expo, hidden Filipino gems: east Asian attractions at FITUR

Madrid, Jan 26 (EFE).- The World Expo 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, new direct flights to Spain starting in October next year and rediscovering the culture and the most unspoiled areas of the Philippines are some of the main tourist attractions presented by the Asia-Pacific region during the International Tourism Fair in Madrid, FITUR.

Japan wants international visitors to get to know the charms of the country’s second city, Osaka, known by many as a place “with Latin character” and which will host the World Expo next year.

“It’s a gastronomic paradise and a city that deserves a little more attention. They are going to find a city with a very different character, they consider us as the Latinos of Japan. It is a very open, multicultural, sustainable city,” Tsubaki Iwai, regional director of the Japan National Tourist Board, told Efe.

In an interview at FITUR, Iwai stressed that thanks to the Expo “many areas within the city have been completely renovated, but it also preserves vestiges of its past, such as the famous Osaka castle and shrines.”

The Expo, which will take place from April 13 to October 13, 2025 on an artificial island, has not been without controversy. The cost overruns and bureaucratic obstacles to build pavilions, as well as the withdrawal of countries such as Mexico, Estonia and Russia, bringing the number of confirmed participating nations to 159, have been stumbling blocks.

The theme of the event will be human life and how to save lives and empower and connect humans to design societies of the future.

In addition to the Expo, visitors will also be able to visit the Universal Studios Park and the best aquarium in the Pacific Ocean, the Kaiyukan, Iwai said.

Another of this year’s highlights will be the direct flight between Spain and Japan, which will operate again in October after having been canceled due to the pandemic.

For the more adventurous and those who already know the country, Japan wants to open the doors to two special destinations: the island of Hokkaido, in the north of the country, and the tropical islands of Okinawa and the lesser known Tokyo islands.

“Asian travelers will know a lot of Hokkaido, but they will know the Hokkaido in winter and we want them to know the one with green color, that place of pastures, plains of flower fields. And Okinawa, perhaps the most paradisiacal place in Japan, tropical Japan, or the islands of Tokyo, such as Ogasawara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are really special places,” he said.

PHILIPPINES, VIRGIN ISLANDS

The Philippines is another of the destinations shining at FITUR, with a post-pandemic tourism recovery rate of nearly 65%.

It received the backing of the World Travel Awards as the best beach and diving destination in the world, while its capital Manila was named as one of the best in urban tourism.

However, for Gerard O. Panga, responsible for tourism in the Philippines, the jewel remains the unspoiled nature and idyllic beaches of the island of Palawan, “especially the combination of El Nido, Cebu, Bohol”, although he also highlighted Siargao, an island 800 kilometers southeast of Manila for surf lovers.

In this sense, the capital, Manila, remains the nerve center from which to visit some of its more than 7,600 islands: “The historic center of Intramuros, the cultural, gastronomic experience and its nightlife”.

For Panga, the Philippines “means that when you go there, there’s something to love about every aspect, especially the people who are legendary for their hospitality and warmth. We position the Philippines as an island paradise, a year round destination which highlights number one eco friendly destinations and we are now focusing so much on sustainability and onward on responsible travel, meaning when people go there, they will experience the local community being empowered.”

It is a country that also guarantees peace of mind for visitors: “It’s a safe destination. Tourists are actually going to remote areas. They love to go to the non-commercial, you know, away from mass tourism and that is always a guarantee of adventure.” EFE

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