The United Nations World Tourism Organization has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to highlight ecotourism, a vital concept in the booming industry in biodiversity-rich countries.
In line with this global observance, the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), together with the Department of Tourism, is spearheading the Subic Ecotourism Festival set from May 29 to June 1 at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.
The biggest of its kind in the country, the core of the event is a forum that brings together the leaders of the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) and its regional subsidiary, the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN).
According to ISST President and former Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor, the event is a rare opportunity for delegates to learn from and network with the best practitioners in the industry. “Given the Philippines’s tourism industry is driven largely by its natural attractions, it is important to balance economic benefit, conservation and respect for local communities, which the GEN board members are greatly recognized for,” she enthused.
Leading the powerhouse cast of international speakers are Glenn Jampol and Tony Charters, GEN chairman and vice chairman, respectively, and general board members Robert Holmes of Australia, Hitesh Mehta of Kenya, Masaru Takayama of Japan, Nabil Tarazi of Jordan and Albert Teo of Malaysia.
Other foreign keynote speakers are Conservation Ecology Center-Australia CEO Lizzie Corke, ASSOB International Australia CEO Paul Niederer, Sapa O’Chau (Vietnam) founder and director Tan Thi Su, Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil, Mahidol University International College assistant dean Kaetwa Muangasame, Bond Asian Ventures Ltd. Chairman Greg Duffel, Indecon Indonesia Director Ary Suhandi, and Global Sustainable Tourism Council chief executive Randy Durband.
Complementing the forum are government local speakers from the Department of Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Teresa Mundita Lim, National Commission on Culture and the Arts-School of Living Traditions Executive Director Rico Pableo Jr., National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Socioeconomic and Special Affairs Director Marie Grace Pascua, Asean Centre for Biodiversity Executive Director Roberto Oliva and Cebu and Provincial Tourism Officer Boboi Costas.
Moreover, Philippine Airlines SVP for Operations Ismael Augusto Gozon and El Nido Resorts Head of Sustainability Mariglo Laririt will share the best practices from the private sector.
Session topics are “Ecotourism Driving Sustainable Development”, Ecotourism and Conservation, “Innovative Investment Attraction”, “Business of Best Practices”, “Community-based Ecotourism”, “Ecotourism—A Natural for Asean”, “Policy and Standards”, “Indigenous Communities” and “Marketing Ecotourism for Yield”.
Tourism Undersecretary Silvino Tejada of the newly created Farm, Faith and Ecotourism portfolio, who will also be among the speakers, said the gathering would help create a resolution for ecotourism stakeholders in the country.
Supporting the event are the Tourism Promotions Board, DENR, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Philippine Airlines, as official carrier.