From travel blogger to international tourism leader, Purdue HTM alumnus ‘leveled-up’ after his Purdue experience

Written by: Tim Brouk,

Ivan Anthony Henares had a feeling he would excel in the tourism industry, and it wasn’t just from when he shared the stage with of the popular hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas during the 2012 edition of The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines ceremony — although that was “a good, good night.”

Henares was nominated in the field of “Heritage Conservation” while the Filipino American rapper was in the “Contemporary Music” category. The awards were presented by Benigno S. Aquino III, then president of the Philippines.

Henares’ passion for tourism, especially in his home country of the Philippines, started in the 2000s when he was an influential travel blogger. As the years passed, Henares obtained degrees, awards and opportunities to make a career in the travel and tourism industries, including a Fulbright scholarship to study in the Purdue University White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). Henares earned his PhD from the program in 2021.

“It was a part of my leveling-up or development as a faculty member,” said Henares from his home in Manila, the Philippines’ capital. “I also came because Purdue is the top university for tourism. (Most) people at Purdue don’t know that Purdue is actually a top — if not the top — program for tourism in the U.S. The tourism program is very well-respected.”

Today, Henares is the Filipino link to international tourism and culture organizations. He is the secretary general for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) National Commission of the Philippines and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) International Cultural Tourism Committee. Henares maintains his position as assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Asian Institute of Tourism while he leads several other national tourism committees and societies.

What is it like working with international tourism agencies such as UNESCO and ICOMOS?

For UNESCO, I’m actually the head of the Philippine National Commission. Every country has a national commission. This is an organization under the national government. We represent the interest of the Philippines and make sure we are compliant with our country’s commitments to the organization. Part of that is attending UNESCO meetings and being a liaison between UNESCO and the Philippine government. The famous programs are World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Global Geoparks program, Biosphere Reserves and Memory of the World. It’s overwhelming, and we have to make sure these all get attention somehow in varying levels of priority. We have to do our best to spread these programs around the country. 

I’ve been an officer of the ICOMOS committee for 10 years, and I’m most likely going to be the president in a few months. The opportunity to learn from colleagues from different countries is very important because it broadens our knowledge on the subject matters we are very active in. When I was at Purdue, we really promoted the need for a lot of intercultural networking, given that Purdue is a very diverse campus. That’s why I’m very excited about these international organizations because you get to meet so many different people and experience many different cultures and mindsets.

You are a proponent of community-based tourism. What do leaders need to be mindful of in this form of tourism?

It’s very important for us to make sure that the host communities are the primary beneficiaries of any tourism program. In fact, they should not just be consulted but they should participate in the management of these programs so it’s not just people coming in and making money off their resources.

Did your travel blogging help set you on a path to success?

It definitely did. I wasn’t a full-time blogger, unlike a lot of people who left their jobs and traveled for a living and tried to survive through blogging. It was more of a hobby for me because I was doing other jobs that would allow me to continuously travel and that worked well for me because I got see my country. I’m one of the few Filipinos who’s actually been to every province in the Philippines. I’ve also been to every U.S. state. I basically did it because I wanted to experience many things. So yes, the blog set me up for success by really broadening my knowledge and letting me experience different kinds of mindsets. Each country would have a different mindset and different characteristics. I get to see all of that when I travel. When you travel, you get to deal with all that: all the good and the bad stuff. Traveling out of the country, it really prepares you on how to deal with different kinds of situations.

What was it like receiving an award with a Black Eyed Pea, and did you give him any travel advice for his next tour?

The award we received is actually the most prestigious award for young people here in the Philippines. It was a great experience receiving the award together. When we were together, we chatted a little bit, but I wasn’t going to go on tour with them (laughs).