Agrotourism and ecotourism are more fun in the Philippines

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

I am here in Dipolog City and truly our country is beautiful in its natural state everywhere you go. And every province and city is aspiring to be the preferred tourist destination. According to the Department of Tourism, tourism is our fourth foreign currency-generating industry. It provides an alternative source of income, especially where there are no manufacturing activities or big retail shops in place.

Tourism promotes entrepreneurship. Those involved in providing tourist products and services do not need to have a college diploma or big starting funds.

But first, as promised, let me give some suggestions on how to turn our naturally well-endowed countryside into tourist magnets.

Agrotourism and ecotourism are the hottest buzzwords nowadays. In other countries they have become major tourist attractions because they give respite to those who are from big cities and other cement jungles.

It is not just about erecting resort hotels, but transforming farms into leisure farm resorts, offering recreational and agricultural activities and showcasing the culture and traditions of the place. Different farms can offer different experiences to their guests with the same Filipino hospitality, good local food, exciting and varied activities and country accommodation. The farmer-owner and his family will personally manage and see to the comfort and satisfaction of their guests.

Some suggestions. For roughing it up, provide enough space for a campsite with tents, barbecue grill, and other necessities within arm’s length. Provide workshops on craft-making; for example, basket making and others. Guests can bring home what they make and you charge them the cost of the materials used. Bird-watching is a good companion activity here. “Hilot” [massage]services could be provided.

Games like catching the pig and many others could be facilitated with prizes for winners.

The veggie patches should not just be for the guests to stare at. Some activities could be developed around the theme. For example, guests could be made to transplant seedlings to beds. They could be asked to prepare the soil, do composting, make organic pesticides and harvest. There could be brief workshops and giveaways of seeds and seedlings for guests to be able to do these back in their own homes.

Another one is a pick-and-eat-all-you-can when fruits and berries are in season. If guests pick more than they could eat, they must pay for it and could bring them home. This could be exciting especially for small children and teenagers. Camiguin has its Lansones Festival in October.

Farm owners could cultivate a net-covered butterfly or dragonfly garden around flower beds and other insect-attracting plants. They could also open a trail around the farm for early morning hiking and jogging. And one of my favorites is to create a labyrinth where guests can provide guests with spiritual and therapeutic pursuits.

For animal farms, guests can be given opportunity to feed the animals, gather eggs from the chicken coop, and others. Then there could be a workshop on red egg-making [itlog na pula or salted egg]. Guests would surely enjoy the little cute farm animals which they do not see in the city. Many kids nowadays think that their chicken and eggs simply come from the supermarket.

If there is a lake or stream in the farm, a fishing and shellfish-catching expedition would be fun aside from the usual swimming event. There could be a boat-making workshop and a boat racing contest afterwards. There are many other water activities that could be lined up.

It will also profit both tourists and province to organize activities and workshops around the culture, customs and traditions of their indigenous people. This will provide employment for the IPs and a unique learning experience for the tourists. The Ifugaos are good at this.

There are limitless possibilities for agrotourism and ecotourism. There are many recreational, educational and spiritual activities around natural ecological resources, local agriculture, orchards and vegetable gardens that tourists could enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of where they live and work to offer a respite from their daily grind.

According to the Department of Tourism, the other areas for tourism are diving and marine sports, sun and beach, health, wellness and retirement, education, cruise and nautical tourism, meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition and events.

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  1. Certification and standardization of establishments such as bed and breakfasts should be in place. Tourists expect that the place they will spend some time is not only fun but sanitary and safe as well. Seminars and courses should be regularly conducted offered free as possible to rural folks on how to run a small enterprise, entertain tourists and how to provide excellent services catering to their needs. Financial assistance thru interest free or low rate loans should be ready available to those who are qualified and determined to engage in this venture. Training should include learning simple everyday phrases in different languages. It will make a good impression if incorporated appropriately when communicating with tourists. Locals must have excellent knowledge of their locality and be proud of their own cultural heritage.

    • I agree with you on all your suggestions and observations. Right now, DoT says they have embark on hotel classification following global standards. This will take time, but at least they have began doing it. I hope they apply the standards uniformly and consistently. :-)