The five days Training Course on Planning and Management of Ecotourism (13-AG-24-GE-TRC-B) was held last November 25-29, 2013 at Nadi, Fiji, participated by eighteen oversees participants from sixteen (16) member countries.
Ecotourism is defined as a “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people” (McCormick, 1994).
Why we choose ecotourism for sustainable development? According to Chesworth (1995), Ecotourism has six characteristics. These are: a) ecotourism involves travel to relatively undisturbed natural areas and/or archeological sites, b) it focuses on learning and the quality of experience, c) it economically benefits the local communities, d) ecotourists seek to view rare species, spectacular landscapes and/or the unusual and exotic, e) ecotourists do not deplete resources but even sustain the environment or help undo damage to the environment, and f) ecotourists appreciate and respect local culture, traditions, etc.
Who will be involved in Developing Ecotourism site? In developing ecotourism sites different stakeholders must be involved in the planning process. The community people, NGO’s, PO, investors, LGU, Education Institutions, Tourism Related industry groups and tourists. Ecotourism could bring economic benefit indirectly or indirect to local community.
a. Enhance participants’ knowledge and understanding of the concept, principles and importance of ecotourism;
b. To train participants on the use of relevant tools and techniques in planning and managing ecotourism projects.
Participant’s Objective for Participation
Guimaras is an island province in Western Visayas, Philippines. It is located Southeast of Panay and Northwest of Negros islands. Composed of five (5) municipalities and ninety eight (98) barangays, has an area of 604.57 sq km with 151, 000 inhabitants (NSCB, 2007) has envisioned through participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches, that the island province as an agri-eco tourism destination of the Region. This is clearly stipulated in its Vision, Mission and Goals (VMG) for its 30 – year (2005 – 2035) Provincial Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
The Training Course on Planning and Management of Ecotourism in Nadi, Fiji on November 25 – 29, 2013 is very timely and relevant to me as a Project Leader in particular and our island Province in general.
Relevance of the training to the Province of Guimaras
Guimaras Tourism Development is anchored on developing tourism in a sustainable and responsible manner. Development planning, management and implementation of Tourism plan should always take into consideration participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches embracing the concept of stewardship so that future generations can enjoy the precious gifts of Guimaras natural resources.
Relevance of the training to the participant
Being the Project Leader of the Tourism Support Services & Facilities cum Capacity Development Research and Information Management (TSSF cum CD RIM), I am spearheading various activities including Capacity Development which includes training, mentoring, coaching and the like and at present is working in partnership with concerned agencies on the following:
• The DENR in partnership with the Province has an On –going initiatives in Zoning the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR) into Restricted and Multi- use Zones which include Ecotourism Projects and Activities.
• The Province is undergoing Coastal Areas which are identified as ecotourism attractions.
• The GENRO as well is developing Integrated Social Forestry Areas as supplier of raw materials and fruits for mainstream tourism areas.
• Other nature- based attractions such as caves, islets, rock formations, beaches, coves are assessed for either protection, rehabilitation, promotion or any other purposes
• Ecoparks such as Dagsa-an in Buenavista is being developed in collaboration with DENR, TIEZA and LGUs.
With my participation to this Training, the following are my expectations:
1) That I could be exposed to the “Basics of Ecotourism” both private, public or community – led ecotourism projects so that my humble learnings will be validated.
2) As a Project Leader on Capacity Development, there is a need to:
• Enhance my competencies on concepts and principles of ecotourism planning, application of environment friendly technologies, ecotourism product development employing Community – Based and Private Led Approaches
• Increase Knowledge, skills and appreciation of embracing and sustaining Community Based Ecotourism , institutionalizing partnership, development of local champions in the community, generating funds for sustainability and surviving development challenges
• Learn to develop and administer appropriate matrices/assessment tools in participatory mapping, participatory assessing/monitoring and evaluation processes
• Acquire techniques and appropriate skills in developing policy support to sustain Community Based Ecotourism.
The training course on Planning and management of Ecotourism is participated by eighteen oversees participants from sixteen member countries.
Scope, Content and Methodology
The speakers used the lecture-discussion method, workshop and group activity for the entire duration of the training course. The participants have time for interaction during lunch and coffee breaks.
Module 1 covered the concepts and principles of ecotourism, emerging trends in the tourism industry and opportunities and challenges for ecotourism development. Selected models of ecotourism a project was also discussed illustrating the community based approach and private-public sector initiatives.
Module 2 presented some useful tools and techniques in planning ecotourism projects. The roles of various stakeholders in planning and management were be studied. The module also reviewed basic management functions and emphasized the importance of good management practices community participation and other established best practices. Case studies showing best management practices of successful projects and factors which contributed to failed ecotourism projects.
Module 3 covered Ecotourism Product Development, Promotion and Marketing.
Module 4 covered Sustainability Assessment.
The group visited the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and Biuasevu Waterfalls for site assessment. We were given an assessment to comply, prepare observations and prepare a group presentation for discussion.
Outcomes and Evaluation
The Training course in Planning and Management of Ecotourism is very relevant to our Province as we set our image to be the “agri-eco” tourism capital of the region.
The course enhanced my competencies on concepts and principles of ecotourism planning, application of environment friendly technologies, ecotourism product development employing Community Based and Private LED Approaches, Ecotourism product promotion and marketing, branding and eco-labeling of ecotourism products.
How important is the involvement of different stakeholders in planning and management of ecotourism. Community Based Ecotourism will be handled by local community and will undergo Capability Building, management guidelines of Ecotourism standards to include the following protection of ecosystem, maintenance of the physic-chemical conditions of the area, conservation of local cultures and history, infrastructures and signboards blend with the environment. Community Based Ecotourism could generate job opportunities and livelihood to locals.
Recommendations and action steps
National Tourism Development Plan (2011-2016) includes the Ecotourism Development Program in Protected Areas. The Department of Tourism and Department of Environment and Natural Resources already identified the priority Areas for Ecotourism Development in the Philippines for Protected Areas. The Roles of organizations like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Tourism where already identified in the National Tourism Development Plan.
The following are the recommendations:
1. Ecotourism for Sustainable Development.
2. Proper Assessment of a site potential for ecotourism development:
c. Safety & Security;
3. Local Government to support ecotourism projects through ordinance and resolutions.
4. To Recognize & operationalize ecotourism for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the protected area.
5. Identify the Market segmentation.
MS. WENNIE ROSE TUANDO
Project Leader, Tourism Support Service
Provincial Tourism Office
Facilities cum Capability Development
-Research and Information Management
Province of Guimaras