DOT chief to tourism leaders: Focus on quality, not quantity
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim has urged players in the domestic tourism industry to consider the environmental impact of their endeavors, saying that preserving the right ecological balance in host communities far outweighs the financial gains of drawing huge numbers of tourists to their respective areas.
Lim made the call on Sunday night during the opening of the 11th national conference of the Association of Tourism Operators of the Philippines (ATOP) at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC), where more than 800 representatives of the domestic tourism sector were gathered.
Lim said the theme of this year’s convention, “Strengthening Domestic Tourism,” affirms the sector’s commitment to promote travel and tourism as an engine for socio-economic growth and sustainable development.
However, the tourism official said that stakeholders should be wary of the ill-effects of uncontrolled tourism to host communities, and insisted that development in this sector should be moderated.
“The only thing that the Department of Tourism (DoT) would insist on is that development should be sustainable. So we should not focus so much on getting high numbers (of tourist arrivals), but (on attaining) quality tourism,” said Lim.
“We should also put in consideration the ecological aspect of how many tourists a given destination can reasonably support, and not go over that,” he added.
To make domestic tourism sustainable, Lim said the DoT advocates the use of an exhaustive tourism master plan for identified tourist destinations in the country. In addition, local government units must strictly enforce relevant laws that pertain to zoning, security, waste management, and sanitation.
Lim then cited the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s (SBMA) balanced tourism thrust that he said made Subic Bay so popular with local tourists.
“(The Subic Bay Freeport) is an ideal tourism town,” Lim said, pointing out that the SBMA has made good use of the free port’s natural endowments and coupled it with modest infrastructure support to make it so accessible to tourists.
SBMA administrator Armand Arreza, who had served as a DoT undersecretary, affirmed that the key to tourism success begins with detailed planning, and implementing strict environmental and zoning laws.
“Subic Bay is the perfect model for balancing industrial thrusts with tourism promotion. The ATOP leaders for sure has put that into consideration when they chose Subic Bay as the venue of the 11th ATOP convention over three other locations,” said Arreza.
The SBMA official also pointed out that while Subic hosts the fourth largest shipyard in the world, and is the site of a myriad of manufacturing plants and warehouses, “Subic Bay is at the same time one of the hottest tourism spots in Luzon.”
“Sustainable development and sustainable tourism— that is something we don’t compromise. We are happy too that the entire free port community has adopted that type of culture,” said Arreza.
ATOP, the national group of local tourism officers, was formed in 2000 to promote sustainable tourism programs in the community in collaboration with the private sector.
ATOP president Roselyn Merlin, who is also the tourism chief of Surigao City, said that the ATOP convention serves as a venue to recognize the best tourism practices of local government units. The organization will give out awards for the Best Tourism Event, Best Tourism Week Celebration, and Most Outstanding Tourism Officers to encourage excellence in promoting the culture of tourism in the grassroots.
The convention will also feature lectures in promoting domestic tourist spots to make them globally-competitive, as well as inputs on the Tourism Act of 2009 and its Implementing Rules and Guidelines to maximize the impact of the tourism industry in being a major engine of economic growth. (30)