The Department of Tourism (DOT) plans to invest a total of P325 million for the geotourism-based branding of tourist destinations, provinces, and key cities included in the regional tourism circuits.
Tourism Secretary Berndette-Romulo Puyat said it would be the best time to revisit the country’s tourism branding, especially with the gradual and granular approach for the reopening of domestic tourist destinations.
Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place, which includes its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.
Despite efforts to conserve the local geosites in the country, a study by a Filipino doctoral researcher said that the Philippines has only been adopting this innovative form of tourism development on a limited level. The only known sites in the country that are “geo-branded” and declared as National Geological Monuments by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources since the 1980s include the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Island; Sand Dunes in Ilocos Norte province; Hundred Islands in Alaminos Pangasinan; Loon-Maribojoc Geological Monument in Bohol Island; Montalban Gorge in Rodriguez, Rizal; St. Paul. Limestone Formation in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Taal Volcano in Taal Lake, Batangas.
The Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal is also another geo-branded site but is not recognized as a geological monument.
“This is the guiding principle for our recently established Domestic Tourism Taskforce, which is consistent with the bottoms up approach that seeks to identify potential tourism circuits across the country,” Puyat said.
The tourism chief said creating a destination’s geotourism brand also calls for the convergence of the DOT, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), local government units (LGUs), stakeholders and the local community.
“Everything, from the location’s geographical landscape, its history, traditions, language, culture and arts must be accounted for to uniquely and meaningfully position and brand it,” she added.
On the product development side, Puyat said the aforementioned elements will be documented and analyzed to aid in the creation of new tourism products or to enhance the current ones prior to the pandemic. These will be made in line with the core advocacy of the DOT in promoting heritage conservation and the sustainable management of nature and culture.
Regional tourism circuits
During the House Committee on Appropriations hearing last week, Puyat identified the regional tourism circuits currently being explored by the tourism department in line with the reopening of domestic travel.
Aside from the pilot “Ridge to Reef” travel bubble program or the North Luzon Circuit between Baguio City and Ilocos region, residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) will soon be allowed to explore several hubs in Metro Manila, including the cultural hub in the city of Manila, knowledge hub in Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, heart hub in Ortigas area, and financial district hub in Makati City, once it transitioned to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
The Central Luzon Circuit will allow residents in the region to visit the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Gabaldon, and Dingalan, once the local heads agree to reopen their tourism.
The Southern Luzon Tourism Circuit will allow movement of tourists from selected provinces and well-known tourist hotpots in Region 4-A , 4-B, and Bicol Region. These include the towns of Coron and El Nido in the island province of Palawan, Quezon province, San Jose in Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and the province of Albay.
Though Boracay Island has reopened to the local residents of the Western Visayas region last June 16, the Visayas Tourism Circuit, on the other hand, will allow further movement of tourists from selected provinces in the eastern and western side including Samar, Negros, Cebu, and Bohol. The DOT has also identified key heritage sites such as the Miag-Ao Church in Iloilo and the Sta. Monica Church in Capiz as part of the circuit.
Meanwhile, Puyat said the Mindanao Tourism Circuit will be one of the most extensive areas that will be developed for the reopening of domestic travel with its extensive resources and diverse product offerings. The circuit includes Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, and Caraga region.
She said the DOT will also allocate a total of P250 million for the marketability of all the tourism circuits all over the country, which will involve both the efficient use of geo-targeted placements and utilizing both traditional and digital media to spur travel and generate revenue in these corridors.
“We will be providing a platform for our stakeholders to effectively sell their products and packages online partnering with aggregators and platforms, co-branding campaigns with relevant and renowned brands,” she said.