Are we ready for local tourists?

2

IT is really wonderful and an educated leap forward that Filipinos with disposable income for vacations are discovering their own country and enjoying it as a vacation destination on a touristic level. Before this happened, they only went to their hometowns as a matter of obligation or as their default holiday or vacation destinations.

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We are no longer a small nation with the kind of population that we carry. So, when the spirit for vacation or whatever moves them, Filipino tourists visiting local destinations come in huge numbers. The extended family is one large group, the office excursion another and then there is the neighborhood, the association of friends. Children, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles and cousins are brought along. So much so, that restaurants have to provide tables for at least a dozen if not more.
Are these destinations ready for both the influx and the emergencies that may come along? Are the local tourists trained in good tourist behavior? It seems not on both counts.

Destinations all over the country advertise their attractions and invite visitors. But when they do come, the hosts are quite unready to meet them and manage them as well as run their local government units in a way that will keep everything smooth and comfortable enough for both the visitors and the residents.

Baguio for all its 100 years as a tourist destination has lately fallen down on the job. The city does not manage its traffic well. In fact, this vacation season it has embarked on a massive, multifarious and disorganized repair/rehabilitation of its streets causing the already heavy traffic conditions to become worse. Obviously the local officials gave no thought to the timing and the results.

It may have the hotel rooms, and the market goods to sell as well as the restaurants everywhere but they do not come with the necessary amenities. I’m now only thinking of simple things like garbage receptacles and regular pickup, or the necessary parking places. Or the zoning of business areas from residential areas, without which there always is chaos because there are unruly crowds wherever these establishments are doing business.

There is an obvious lack of personnel such as police or traffic managers to discipline both the tourists and the locals serving the tourists. Latest I heard is the local government’s solution to the lack of parking facilities. It will be to build underground parking in Burnham Park, that much abused area which has a proliferation of permanent structures, vendors, and even communities of homeless. The city aquifers are in Burnham Park. The water business of Baguio, which has never solved its water problem despite having the heaviest rainfall in the country, is dependent on these aquifers. Wouldn’t digging for underground parking be an insult to the environment and disturb–even destroy– the aquifers? Just wondering what degree of shortsightedness afflicts the authorities there.

Sagada is another example. It is a small town that must control the influx of visitors by pedestrianizing its downtown, enforcing garbage rules and providing garbage receptacles, setting up parking areas out of town, managing its water, controlling building height and overcrowding. It may turn out to be an ugly town yet if tourist management is not thoughtfully enforced.

Boracay is on the way to become an example of accepting tourists and development beyond its carrying capacity, enough to compromise its environment–and residents’ health.

So it goes from Palawan to Cebu to Zambales and Bataan beaches, Benguet hotsprings. No management, no order, no cleanliness. Tourists have the sense that they can do as they please and the local authorities look the other way or join in. A misplaced sense of entitlement by tourists and a lax attitude by locals toward vandals at the tourist destination is an abdication of duty to educate and discipline visitors are formulas to turn a paradise into a miserable ruin.

Tourists come in hordes, park their vehicles anywhere, throw their garbage everywhere and sometimes do not benefit the community at all by cooking on the roadsides, sleeping in their vehicles and being quite unsanitary. The local government authorities must discourage these practices.

Here is where urbanity or the old-fashioned word “urbanidad” must be defined, taught and enforced. Urbanidad is simply thoughtfulness, good manners, cleanliness and courtesy that living in a society presupposes and demands. Visitors must behave politely, be civil. They must not abuse hospitality but treat their vacation destinations as they would treat their own neighborhood or home. Sometimes we have very uncivil persons pretending to be tourists but who are really more akin to vandals.

In the same way, local government and the community of tourist destinations must make and implement the rules for organized and pleasant tourist experiences as well as satisfactory returns from their visitors. It just does not make sense that your city or town is trashed by the tourist influx. There must be rules for tourists to follow and law and rule enforcers must be civil but firm when these laws and rules are about to be violated and unbending when these are actually violated by tourists.

Singapore gets something like 10 million tourists. It’s rule and law enforcers deal as strictly with tourists as they do with citizens.

Essential too is the duty of local governments to invest in safety for everyone’s sake. They must spend on monitoring mountain-climbing, swimming and other water sports, traffic conditions and medical emergencies . These must be attended to as part of the tourist infrastructure that a destination must have.

All in all, education is the name of the game. Tourists are welcome if they obey the rules. Local governments will be happier if they enforce those rules. Everyone should enjoy a vacation without the unpleasant side effects of thoughtlessness, laxity and a very obvious lack of “urbanidad.”

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2 Comments

  1. Amnata Pundit on

    The two departments that must combine to produce a good tourism program are the Department of Tourism and the DECS. Before EDSA, these two were the priority departments. Under the current regime, the priority departments are Public works and DOTC, for obvious reasons. When a government is this corrupt, even basic things like garbage receptacles are overlooked because all eyes are on the prize, and you know what I mean. This lack of urbanidad is a venality rooted in corruption. In short, there can be no urbanidad as long as the Corista/Yellows are in power.

  2. Edgar G. Festin on

    Your criticism generalizes ALL Philippine tourist destinations unjustly. Some of our tourist resorts and cultural destinations are excellently prepared to receive not only local but also foreign tourists.
    Anti-Filipino Malaysans, who want our tourism industry to disintegrate and who want to prove that it is correct for their country to take over Mindanao using the Aquino administration, especially the OPAPP, MILF and its BBL as Malaysia’s fifth column, will use your article to fire up moral support for Malaysia’s take-over-Mindanao project.