Speech of

RD Leonardo R. Sibbaluca, CESO III

Training-Workshop on Sustainable Tourism

Leyte Park Hotel, Tacloban City

August 18-27, 2016

 

Greetings!

 

In recent years, the tourism industry has been playing a crucial and significant role in the economic planning of our government. This is very true because it contributes a sizable part of our annual revenue – meaning, more money is poured in to our national coffers and it spikes the local economy where tourism sites abound. Of course, it follows that job opportunities are available to the populace.

 

Statistics provided by the Department of Tourism would give us a general idea just how important the tourism industry is. An example is the national total earnings gained from tourism activities from January to May 2016 alone which already amounted to Php 106.61 billion. This is a double-digit growth of 13.53% compared to Php 93.9 billion earnings of the same period in 2015. In 2015, the tourism industry contributed 8.2% to the economy as the revenue reached $5 billion and this more than doubled in the past seven years from $2.4 billion in 2008. Boosted by the increasing trend, the DOT is projecting an $8 billion tourism revenue target for 2016.

 

This training-workshop on sustainable tourism would play a crucial role in attaining that projection. But lest we be consumed by the economic aspect of the tourism industry, an equally, if not more important aspect of the tourism industry is its sustainabilityand within the context of a green economy.

 

This is where you come in.

 

As defined, Sustainable tourism is a tourism that is developed and maintained in a way that remains economically worthwhile for an indefinite timescale and does not undermine the physical and human environment that stands and cultivate it. (Harris et al., 2002).

 

Undeniably, our country has much to offer to the  varied interests of tourists. More often than not, they come to bask themselves in the scenic beauty that our nature-based tourism provides. While acknowledging its significance to our economy, we must always bear in mind the need for its continued viability and sustainability. As expressed in the UN Green Economy Report in 2015, any infusion of tourism development must lead to “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” Meaning, when we talk about sustainable tourism, we do not see it as one indivisible whole in itself but just part of a bigger picture. The challenge for all of us is to make sure that sustainable tourism development is one that is carefully planned and managed. We should not focus only on its short-term economic impact but a looking forward approach.

 

Strategic planning is a must.

 

While the United Nations World Tourism Organization has openly endorsed tourism as one of the feasible means for poverty reduction for developing countries, if not properly planned and managed, may actually further proliferate poverty to even greater heights. (Scheyvens&Momsen, 2008).

 

For the tourism industry to be sustainable, it must be a convergence of all stakeholders – government agencies, the private sector,, local communities and experts on this field. The output of this conglomeration must meet not only the needs of the tourists, but also those in the tourism business, the local communities and that of the need for environmental protection. In essence, it is about meeting the needs of both tourists and the host communities, for present and future generations.

 

Significant to note is that we have protected areas all over the country. This protected areas are popular tourist destination. The benefit it provides should not underscore the need for it to be sustainable. Always a must is the maintenance of the biodiversity assets of protected areas,  becauseif we lose it, then it will no longer be attractive to tourists. Sustaining it will enhance the recreation experience of tourists, which leads to repeat and longer visitation,a high quality tourist experience, and better support for biodiversity conservation (UNWTO, 2010)

 

At present, there is an on-going mining audit of all operating mining companies in the country. The direction is for more stringent regulation before application for mining will be granted. The rationale is simple – mining alters the surface of the earth and disturbs the biodiversity. Abuse will have a long term detrimental effect. As such, to focus more on tourismindustry, is a viable alternative to compensate whatever revenue is lost from mining industry and may even provide job opportunities to mining workers affected. What is important here is to find ways and means that the tourism industry from nature-based tourism, like that of eco-tourism is within the ambit of its being sustainable.

 

In conclusion, allow me to say that attainment of a sustainable tourism industry is necessary. But having said that, we also acknowledge the fact that it is a lengthy and tedious process. But as they say, the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step. This training-workshop is one of those many small steps that propels us nearer to that goal. 

 

Incidentally, the UN hasdeclared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development. We are in the right track with this activity. This is our modest contribution.

 

May you have a fruitful training workshop on sustainable tourism. Thank you.