The Department of Tourism (DOT) aims to reach 6 million tourist arrivals in 2016. Guided by the National Tourism Development Plan 2011 – 2016, DOT identified opportunities to help propel growth and achieve its target. Ecotourism is recognized as one sector that is poised to be a driver for tourism’s success. The Philippine National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) and Action Plan (2013 – 2022) has identified potential market size of 1.5 million to 14.2 million eco-tourists.
Ecotourism, as defined by NES, is a form of sustainable tourism within a natural and cultural heritage area where community participation, protection and management of natural resources, culture and indigenous knowledge and practices, environmental education and ethics, as well as economic benefits, are fostered and pursued for the enrichment of host communities and satisfaction of visitors.
In light of this, the Philippines Improving Competitiveness in Tourism (PICTourism) program, a technical assistance project for DOT, administered by the Asian Development Bank and funded by the Government of Canada, is reviewing the current ecotourism standards and regulations. Designed to help improve competitiveness of the country’s tourism sector, this review is being done under PICTourism’s Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA) output, focused on the review of tourism-related regulations.
“The push and improvement of the ecotourism industry supports the country’s thrust of introducing new sights and activities to further encourage both local and foreign tourists to visit the Philippines. As we continue to make Philippine tourism more competitive and at par with our neighboring countries, we are emphasizing that there are still more to explore in the Philippines given our vast natural resources,” according to the Eco -Tourism Working Group head Warner Andrada.
The Philippines is an ecotourism destination yet there are only few eco-lodges, eco-guides and eco-tour accredited with DOT. This concern provided impetus to review ecotourism rules and regulations promulgated in 2008. The review aims to assess the ecotourism standards under RIA framework and provide policy options to ensure ecotourism regulations are efficient and relevant to the industry.
“Through the review, we hope to get a better understanding if the current set of standards is still relevant. We want to find where our opportunities are so we can reach more industry players on ecotourism. We want to know their concerns and possible roadblocks why ecotourism standards have not been fully appreciated. Through RIA, we will be able to identify our challenges to plan our steps to move ecotourism sector forward,” explains Mr. Andrada.
With a more sustainable and dynamic national ecotourism program, the country is poised to take advantage of a continuously increasing interest in ecotourism/nature tourism which was said to be growing three times faster compared to the whole tourism industry, as reported by the Convention on Biological Diversity.