The future of the cordillera tourism industry

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The Cordillera has been a natural ecotourism destination over the past several decades. Even before the formal establishment of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) by virtue of Executive Order (EO) No. 220 issued by former President Corazon C. Aquino on July 15, 1987, each of the 75 municipalities, 6 provinces and 2 cities have their own unique natural attractions that serve as a pull for foreign and domestic visitors wanting to explore key destinations outside their places. The different famous tourist destinations such as the Banaue Rice Terraces which was branded as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Sagada burial caves, the Kabayan mummies, and the vegetable, flower and strawberry farms enjoy the advantage of being a name recall among tourists who are now in their middle and old ages but the other attractions seem to be difficult to remember because of their unpopular name, place or kind of attraction within the area.

Like in the Summer Capital which has been popularly known as Baguio City, the famous tourist destinations enjoy a distinct advantage over other upcoming potential tourist destinations such as the different waterfalls, the towering and majestic mountains of Mountain Province, other waterfalls, rivers and caves that have various different features that are located in the different parts of the region.

Despite being a thinly populated region composed mostly of mountain ranges, the Cordillera still remains lucky because it is getting a slice of the huge foreign and domestic tourist arrivals through limited promotions and simply by word of mouth from those who have seen the pristine beauty of the different parts of the region through their respective adventures. Another factor that is keeping the local tourism industry alive is because of the peace-loving people of the region who value the importance of visitors wanting to have a glimpse of what are the hidden tourist spots region-wide.

For a time, the tourism department was active in extending financial and technical assistance for the promotion of tourist destinations in order for the region to be able to be at par with other dominant tourism destinations in the country. Those were the glory days of the tourism department as they saw the importance of the impact of aggressive promotion of potential tourist destinations not only through the mainstream media but also the fast-changing social media. We were not left behind at that time because people keep coming back to our region to enjoy our scenic spots, our warm and romantic weather and peace-loving people at the helm.

We were saddened to learn that the tourism department already removed their subsidy to local governments for the conduct of their crowd-drawing events for still unjustifiable reasons. The worst part of it is that the different offices of the tourism department still want to be projected as major players in the conduct of the crowd-drawing events which should not be the case because they simply abandoned the different local governments in coming out with sustainable programs that would make the crowd-drawing events long lasting for the benefit of the present and future generations. The conduct of the various festivals region wide is not for the sake of tourism arrivals but it is an eye opener for the people to value the importance of cultural and historical preservation considering that the Cordillera has been described to be rich in culture and history that were efficiently and effectively passed on by the previous to the present generations.

Furthermore, it is our belief that the conduct of crowd-drawing events should be government-led and private sector supported because, without one pillar of the festival, it would be difficult to guarantee the successful staging of such festivals.

We certainly believe the missing link in the obviously successful conduct of crowd-drawing events is the support of the tourism department. While it is true that tourism officials and employees can be seen around during the highlights of major festivals region-wide, local governments and partner organizers of such events really miss the financial and technical support which they have previously enjoyed in the past when tourism department officials were mindful of the benefits that tourism would bring to a remote community in the Cordillera. The most insulting part of it is that tourism officials still want to claim credit of the successful conduct of crowd-drawing events which should not be the case. Let us also learn to give credit where credit is due and avoid credit-grabbing because such actuations will spoil everything that were put in place by those who painstakingly worked for what the festivals are known to be in terms of their magnitude now.

We still buy the idea that no one has the monopoly of knowledge and skills in managing the successful conduct of crowd-drawing events. What is important now is for the tourism department to be extra active in providing sufficient financial and technical assistance to already established and upcoming crowd drawing events so that we will be able to strike a balance in who will be given due credit for the successful festivals. Our tourism officials should be aggressive enough in representing that we still deserve the support of the national government amidst the successful events and we will surely share the fruits of success in the future.

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