Tourism professionals have highlighted the crucial role of tourism in helping restructure the Philippines’ economy in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
Delegates at the rescheduled World Ecotourism Conference, which took place at the end of February on the island of Cebu, discussed the marine and coastal impacts of tourism and destination management. They also took a tour to the nearby island of island of Bohol to discover major ecotourism developments.
The Philippine Department of Tourism recently unveiled its National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) and action plan from 2013 to 2022. This framework, it claimed, provides a platform for the department to create diverse ecotourism products and environments, generate valuable revenue for host communities and ultimately achieve its ecotourism vision.
Speaking at the event, the Philippine tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr illustrated the market growth and ability of ecotourism to conserve nature. He said the Philippines expected to welcome almost 1.5 million visitors in 2016.
“Ecotourism will continue to demonstrate robust growth in the next two decades, as more sophisticated types of travellers evolve”, he added.
Community-based initiatives for tourism, with the help of the government and businesses, were also recommended to support the planet and fight poverty in impoverished communities.
Gina Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation, said, “Tourism generates revenues and creates employment but if you’ll just put money in there, nothing will happen. For community-based tourism projects to take off and see results, these need the concerted efforts of local government, private sector and the community.”
She added, “There is no tourism if you kill the environment. There is no good tourism if it would not significantly improve the lives of the community.”
The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has demonstrated its commitment, post-Haiyan, to helping the Philippines’ economy and tourism sector recover in the long term.
Harry Hwang, UNWTO deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific, confirmed at the conference that the organisation’s secretary-general Taleb Rifai will be visiting the country in May to provide recommendations for renewal.
A study published in February found that ecotourism and the creation of conservation areas helped reduce poverty in local communities.