Philippines pushes for ‘regenerative tourism’

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

An even better and sustainable version of the Philippines’ world-popular destinations -- this is what the Department of Tourism (DOT) is now pushing with the emerging calls for “regenerative tourism”.


In a Laging Handa briefing recently, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said this kind of travel sets the bar higher from zero-footprint tourism to one that leaves a lasting and positive impact on the host destination.


“We want sustainable tourism and we want a tourist destination to be even better than it was before, (we want the kind of travel) that does not destroy nature but at the same time benefits the host communities,” she said.


“We have to think of the future generations... We want to make sure that each tourist destination is taken care of for our future generations,” she added.


Gone are the days that promoting green tourism or simply reducing waste when you visit a place is enough, now climate concerns have highlighted the need for tourists and stakeholders to lead the movement.


At the recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Manila, regenerative tourism champions and Masungi Georeserve trustees Ann and Bullie Dumaliang said stakeholders must first localize their approaches and understand how they could protect the destination.


“When we talked about regenerative tourism it focuses on an ecosystem-wide approach which we tend to forget when we talk about sustainability,” Ann said.


“A lot of us have limited the concept of sustainability to simply reducing plastic waste, offsetting our carbon, and all of these. We tend to forget that we need to localize our approach and that means getting to know all the places and understanding the geographical nature of the destinations,” she added.


Masungi Georeserve Foundation provides forest enforcement support to deter and eliminate threats to the georeserve and surrounding watershed areas.


Through on-ground patrolling, installation of ranger stations, and investments in monitoring technology, the foundation was able to accelerate efforts and secure more areas for conservation in the area.


At present, the nature reserve project located in Baras, Rizal has so far planted 60,000 native trees, engaged more than 100 park rangers, supported 200 local households, and rescued 2,000 hectares of land from encroachment and illegal activities.


“All of that now is sustained and protected using the fund that we raised through tourism, it really goes on to show how tourism can be a force for good for nature,” Ann shared.


“Regenerative tourism is really a change in mindset, it’s a paradigm shift from a tourism that leaves no trace to a kind of tourism that leaves things better than they were before, both for businesses and for travelers,” his sister Billie added.


For the Dumaliangs, the government plays an important role in replicating Masungi’s successes.


“You need to be open to innovation, to new policies, and actually incentivize that. If you don’t restore the watersheds around us, you will lose water. If you don’t protect the area from extractive industries, the entire landscape and all the communities will suffer,” Billie said. (PNA)