Since ecotourism became a byword in the country in the late 1990s, nearly all local tourist destinations have embrace an environmental or natural dimension.
Two decades later, there is a compelling reason to believe that the Philippines is emerging as a global learning hub for ecotourism due to the rare convergence of the world’s top ecotourism experts in the first Subic Ecotourism Festival set on May 29 to June 1.
Set at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center, it is the biggest of its kind in the country which will highlight ecotourism, a vital concept in the booming industry in biodiversity-rich countries. Organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) and the Department of Tourism, the core of the event is a forum that brings together the leaders of the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN), and its regional subsidiary, the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN).
Leading the powerhouse cast of international speakers are Glenn Jampol and Tony Charters, GEN chair and vice-chair respectively, and general board members Robert Holmes of Australia, Hitesh Mehta of Kenya, Masaru Takayama of Japan, Nabil Tarazi of Jordan, and Albert Teo of Malaysia.
According to ISST president and former tourism secretary Mina Gabor, the event is a rare opportunity for delegates to learn from and network with the best practitioners in the industry. “Given the Philippines’ tourism industry is driven largely by its natural attractions, it is important to balance economic benefit, conservation and respect for local communities which the GEN board members are greatly recognized for,” she said. She added that the four-day event is in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
A former Tourism Secretary, Gabor pushed ecotourism during her tenure, making it a buzzword in the industry years later.
The global resource persons are led by Glenn Jampol and Tony Charters, GEN chair and vice-chair respectively, with general board members Robert Holmes of Australia, Hitesh Mehta of Kenya, Masaru Takayama of Japan, Nabil Tarazi of Jordan, and Albert Teo of Malaysia.
Other foreign keynote speakers are Conservation Ecology Center – Australia CEO Lizzie Corke, ASSOB International Australia CEO Paul Niederer, Sapa O'Chau (Vietnam) founder and director Tan Thi Su, Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil, Mahidol University International College assistant dean Kaetwa Muangasame, Bond Asian Ventures Limited Chairman Greg Duffel, Indecon Indonesia Director Ary Suhandi, CEO, and Global Sustainable Tourism Council Randy Durband.
Government sector local speakers are DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Teresa Mundita Lim, National Commission on Culture and the Arts-School of Living Traditions Executive Director Rico Pableo Jr., National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Socioeconomic and Special Affairs Director Marie Grace Pascua, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Executive Director Roberto Oliva, and Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Boboi Costas.
Industry experts will share the best practices from the private sector.
Session topics are Ecotourism Driving Sustainable Development, Ecotourism and Conservation, Innovative Investment Attraction, Business of Best Practices, Community-based Ecotourism, Ecotourism - A Natural for ASEAN, Policy and Standards, Indigenous Communities, and Marketing Ecotourism for Yield.
Tourism Undersecretary Silvino Tejada of the newly-created Farm, Faith and Ecotourism portfolio, who will also be among the speakers, said that the gathering would help create a resolution for ecotourism stakeholders in the country. Participants will conduct a case study for the development or improvement of an ecotourism project in the Subic Freeport area.
The confab is designed for government policy-makers, infrastructure development executives, tourism, travel and hospitality professionals, and faculty and students.
Supporting the event are the Tourism Promotions Board, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Department of the Interior and Local Government, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), and Philippine Airlines, as official carrier.
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