In my recent travels, I have seen how tourism can generate income and wealth for people. Tourism refers to all travel-related activities undertaken by a resident to another place for purposes other than work and permanent residence. Tourism offers product bundles composed of “experiences” involving the active participation of the tourist. The tourism product is the complete experience from departure from home to return.
I have seen how Bacolod, whose economy has traditionally been associated with sugar production, is gearing itself for tourism. Bacolod’s government officials and the private sector are beginning to develop the city as a destination that provides unique experiences to tourists.
In the butterfly farm in Mambukal Resort, one can see around 50 butterfly species. One can also visit the Ruins, an ancestral mansion of the Lacson family built in the early 1900s and inspired by Italian architecture. In Cebu, seeing the Mactan Shrine with its historical monuments allows Filipino tourists to reflect on their identity.
I found my experiences rewarding because they included entertainment, educational, aesthetic, and escapist elements of the tourism product. I felt involved and found myself growing in both self-knowledge and respect for others.
Experiences like these are provided by an industry composed of hotels, resorts, other forms of accommodations, restaurants, tour and travel agencies, transport operators, and handicraft shops.
Worldwide, tourism has been of great economic importance since the second half of the twentieth century. More than 200 million jobs are generated by tourism worldwide. Its total turnover is at least $3 billion, which represents over 5% of the world’s gross national product.
Since the creation of the Ministry of Tourism in the 1970s, tourism began to contribute significantly to the Philippine economy in the 1990s. As of 2016, it accounted for 8.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product and employed 5.2 million Filipinos.
As in most economic sectors, rapid and radical changes have occurred in the industry. Tourism is in metamorphosis.
In a monograph identifying major tourism trends in Asia Pacific, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) explained that the basis of travel is no longer the destination but the activity. Experiential learning is key to today’s travel experience.
Our current Tourism Chief, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, is poised to face the challenges of new technology, more experienced tourists, globalization, and environmental limits to growth by helping tourism entrepreneurs identify opportunities for business through innovation and product development (or differentiation).
She is looking at the benefits that the Farm Tourism Law, sponsored by Senator Cynthia Villar and Representative Sharon Garin, can do.
Indeed, inviting people to experience farms through agri-tourism is one way to go. Culinary tourism, or offering food that is unique to a place, is another possibility. Heritage tourism is another. After all, the Philippines is a showcase of indigenous culture.
Tourism can be very capital-intensive, but I find Secretary Romulo-Puyat’s strategy fitting for the Philippines given its resources. Agri-tourism, culinary tourism, and heritage tourism can serve new markets with fewer resources. They are anchored on the country’s natural and human capital.
Moreover, profit from tourism can be derived from information and relationships. Profit can be generated by increasing the revenue from a well-known tourism product. Costs can be reduced by innovative distribution and marketing made possible through cooperative agreements with networks of suppliers and firm alliances. The local population can likewise be empowered to deliver the experience.
Tourism’s greatest potential is not economic. It lies in its nature as a profound human activity that enables people to discover each other’s culture and develop respect for each other. It affirms the greatness of people and their cultures. As Mahatma Gandhi puts it, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
Let us join Tourism Secretary Romulo-Puyat in discovering and growing Philippine tourism’s potential through a showcase of what is uniquely Filipino through food, heritage, and natural resources.
Maria Victoria P. Tibon is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She teaches various management subjects.