Pursuing alternative options for Philippine tourism

For the longest time, coastal-based tourism has been the anchor of Philippine tourism. The beaches are one of the major tourist attractions in the Philippines. Local and foreign tourists give a lasting impression when they have the opportunity to visit the lovely beaches in Boracay, Palawan and Cebu and other locations.

The Philippines has a lot of spectacular diving sites to offer diving aficionados. There is Anilao inBatangas. If you want to dive in Cebu, you can go to Oslob, Malapascua, Moalboal and Sumilon, Verde Island to experience the distinct and diversity of each location. Siargao Island is a lovely haven for surfers both local and foreign especially during the Siargao Cup where you can see Filipinos and foreigners pit their skills in surfing.

Living in the Philippines for the past 15 years, I am quite aware that this beautiful country has a lot to offer aside from coastal-based tourism.

I am a strong believer that the Philippines has many tourism opportunities to offer the local and global markets. For example, the Philippines has a lot of beautiful mountains to show to the tourists through trekking activities just like the ones being done by European countries. In the northern part of the Philippines, you can experience the majestic presence of the Cordillera. Of course, before going to the Cordillera, you can drop by at Baguio City to savor the cool weather brought about by its high terrain. In Mindanao, Mount Apo would be a good attraction for mountain climbers who want to take a shot at climbing the country’s highest peak.

Also in Mindanao, mountain climbing enthusiasts can visit Mount Dulang-Dulang, also known as Mount Kitanglad, the tallest elevation peak in Kitanglad mountain range located in Bukidnon. Another well known destination in Bukidnon is Dahilayan, an adventure park immersed into nature.

Sustainability and survival

I’d like to give special mention to Zambales. I was amazed when I saw the areas inhabited by the Aetas. I am sure it would be a relevant visit for the tourists as the Aetas can give visitors valuable lessons on sustainability and survival. Remember, they trained American soldiers in jungle survival techniques before being deployed to Vietnam. For me this is unique as it can give you hands-on experience on how to live in the wild.

Tourism infrastructure

But of course, the government has to develop the necessary infrastructure such as roads, hotels, hospitals, stores, and internet connection to ensure the tourists will have a pleasant, relaxing and convenient stay in those tourist spots. It is equally important to implement an aggressive marketing and informative campaign to spread the word that there are beautiful mountains to be explored in the Philippines.

For city-based tourism, it is high-time to expand the reach beyond Intramuros. While touring Manila, I saw a lot of houses and buildings in Binondo and Escolta that were built during the American and post-war periods.

Viewing these structures will give you a historical perspective and the importance of culture to the soul of a nation. In fact, I also saw some historical houses in Cagayan de Oro and other areas I visited that are worth visiting by tourists.

It is quite sad that some of these historic landmarks have been neglected and worse, demolished for various reasons.

To save these structures, the government can grant incentives, tax holidays and other perks to motivate the owners to preserve them. I think the private sector could be a valuable partner in this relevant undertaking. Universities must also be a part of intensive planning and work to properly catalog and organize these important historical assets.

Food, Agri tourism

The Philippines also has huge potential in food tourism. Being a country with a 110 million population and more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines can develop a comprehensive plan to promote a diverse and unique culinary program which has Spanish, American, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Islamic influences. All hands must be on deck to ensure it will be an efficient and inclusive program.

Micro, small and medium enterprises should be tapped by the local government units to make the program inclusive and promote grassroots development too.

Another important tourism opportunity is represented by the agri-tourism sector. There are areas where agriculture is quite impressive, like the banana and pineapple plantations in Mindanao, or the rice terraces in Ifugao and other interesting areas that are, from my point of view, could be utilized as agri-tourism assets. I will talk more extensively about agri-tourism in my next column.

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