Tourism and sustainable farming go hand in hand

The best way to help revive the economy, as well as medium and small scale businesses in retail and services, is for the 15 richest men in the country to declare a moratorium on rental spaces in their malls.

Yes! Declare a 50 percent or even 70 percent cut on the rent of retail spaces for the next six months. Yes, Ayala Land, SM, Robinsons, Villar holdings, they hold thousands of small restos, personal services stores, retail outlets, etc. with huge rentals, lockdown or no lockdown.

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Dr. Mina Gabor

Dr. Mina T. Gabor is one passionate, action-oriented and patriotic woman leader in the country. She is the first woman secretary of the Department of Tourism confirmed by the Commission on Appointment and served from 1995 to 1998.

After DOT, her passion for promoting tourism and trade for the Philippines never waned. Dr. Gabor founded, together with like-minded people in the persons of Corazon Alma de Leon, Dave Cartes, Joselito Bernardo, and Miguel Guioguio, the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) in 2010 in Subic, recalls Rose Libongco, one of Mina’s closest friends.

The National Geographic cited ISST as the first sustainable tourism school in the Asia-Pacific region, educating a new generation of leaders. A school for sea-bound personnel, it did very well, offering short courses on housekeeping, front office procedures, and food and beverages. Graduated were gainly employed at shipping companies internationally and in the domestic hotel industry.

ISST is a private non-stock and non-profit corporation established in 2010 in the Philippines. Dedicated to education and technical training of manpower to develop, promote, and viably operate sustainable tourism in the Philippines and other ASEAN countries, it also aims to uplift communities with ecological resources that need to be preserved and can be sustainably used for tourism.

ISST has continuously been giving capability building trainings and sharing knowledge to prospective individuals, groups, the academe, LGUs on community-based sustainable tourism programs, including eco-tourism and farm tourism. In 2020, despite the pandemic, it carried on with its trainings.

Aside from sustainable tourism, ISST has focused on farm tourism, which is gaining popularity in the Philippines as well as other parts of the world. It is not only about your farm but is more of an experience in farm life that the visitors may cherish during their visit. Last July, ISST did a training on Urban Farm Tourism, a partnership with the local government of Pasay City, which it spearheaded with Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano. It was funded by PHILEXPORT. Ongoing is a set of webinars on Capability Building for Sustainable Tourism and Farm Tourism.

ISST also has a lineup of webinars in the coming months for certain government agencies and private organizations. It continues to meet its mission to provide education that will help transform tourism into a more inclusive, responsible, and sustainable industry, enhancing the benefits of local communities, upscaling small and medium enterprises, and supporting the capacity building needs of concerned private, government, and non-government organizations working in the tourism sector.

ISST had great plans for its 10th anniversary, but due to the pandemic, the celebration, which would have included the recognition of individuals, entities, and government agencies that supported ISST, had been postponed. The seventh Philippine Farm Tourism Conference, which was scheduled to be conducted in Bohol this year, will have to be rescheduled. Waiting in the wings is the International Ecotourism Travel Mart, which ISST won in a bid, something to look forward to in 2023. “Being a steadfast advocate of sustainable tourism, it is not surprising that the indefatigable former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor founded the ISST, the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Bob Zozobrado, former dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines' International Tourism and Hospitality Manangement and the current chairman of the Asia Pacific Travel Association and board member of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines. “This brings great pride to those of us in tourism because students from different countries, even from as far as Africa, look up to us, to our expertise in this very important aspect of the global tourism industry, and register for courses in the school.”

Mina Gabor’s ISST is now in Silang, Cavite, where on-the-farm experiences are real. It has definitely put the Philippines on a pedestal in the global tourism horizon.