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Founded on February 26, 1976, the Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT) began as a tripartite project of the Department of Tourism, the Philippine Tourism Authority (now the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority), and the University of the Philippines as approved by former President Ferdinand Marcos. The Institute is considered to be the pioneer in tourism education in Asia being the first academic institution in the region to offer a four-year degree program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Tourism.
The AIT complex, where the institute is currently housed, was inaugurated on November 20, 1978. This edifice was one of the pet projects of First Lady Imelda Marcos.
The institute attracted an initial batch of 28 students in June 1977 and then produced its first batch of graduates, 12 students, on March 1979.