PH urged to aim for inclusion in UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages

The Philippines should aim to become one of the UN-World Trade Organization (UNWTO)’s “Best Tourism Villages”, said UNWTO Tourism for Rural Development Programme Coordinator Antonio Lopez de Avila.

During the tourism forum of the Southeast Asian Center for Graduate Study and Research in  Agriculture (SEARCA), Avila said being one of the Best Tourism Villages will help the country in sustaining the rural economy and cultural traditions, and support livelihood in the outskirts.

“We can use tourism as a powerful driver. People are discovering new routes.  They do what they have not done before like harvest crops,” he said.

Avila added that farm tourism will play a significant role in post-Covid rural development.

The Alula Framework for Inclusive Community Development through Tourism has also been set up by the WTO, G20 Tourism Working Group, and the G20 Saudi Presidency with a vision to improve the livelihood of many people.

Keneth de Gracia of the Department of Tourism (DOT) 4-A, during the same SEARCA tourism forum titled "Unleashing Untapped Opportunities of Agrifood Tourism, said the Philippines has already emerged as a top farm tourism destination.

This was mainly due to the ratification of Republic Act 10816 or an "Act Providing for the Development and Promotion of Farm Tourism in the Philippines", he noted.

DOT has already engaged in technical cooperation with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), he said.

“This will come up with a standard module for capacity development in farm tourism.  I will train people on farm tourism sites in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas Rizal, Quezon),” De Gracia added.

Dr. Siti Fatimahwati Pehin Dato Musa, a professor at Universiti Brunei Darusalam, noted that the current fast food culture has become a threat to food traditions, which causes “hunger for agri-tourism and farm-to-table (FTT) activities.”

"FTT groups have been taking responsibility for promoting local artisans, local farmers, and local flavours through regional events such as taste workshops, wine and food tasting, and farmers' markets,” said Pehin Dato Musa.

FTT activities in Southeast Asia include cooking classes, events, tours, markets, and school or organization activities, he added.

Pehin Dato Musa also cited the Sumbiling Eco Village, an agritourism site in Brunei, where natives practice organic farming and agroforestry or planting native trees and bamboo.

Meanwhile, SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio also noted that “agritourism is an innovative pathway to ISARD (inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development)”.

A candidate site should have a population of a maximum of 15,000 inhabitants to qualify for the “Best Tourism Villages.”

It should also feature traditional activities, particularly agriculture, forestry, livestock, or fishing.
UNWTO also gives support to candidates that did not qualify through partnerships that help improve a site after an evaluation.

The Best Tourism Villages provides guidance to governments and the private sector on putting up tourism policies through education, investment, innovation, and technology to "transform the livelihoods of millions, while preserving our environment and culture."