Tourism and MSMEs: Create a circle of prosperity

E CARTOON MAY 16, 2024.jpg

Tourism is a powerful force in boosting the development of a country. It has been proven in many small towns and islands all over the world, creating strong tourism industries for their countries.  We don’t have to look far, our ASEAN neighbors, among them Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, have successful tourism industries that contribute significantly to their national economies.

It is the culture, the details of life in a community, the handicrafts fashioned by tradition, the atmosphere that welcomes a stranger into a charming village – that attract tourists to spend time and money to go there. 

All of these we have in the Philippines, in the thousands of villages that inhabit the islands. And that’s why tourism is fueling development in many small towns and cities, boosting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). For example, in a small village in Mt. Pulag, an enterprise called “home-stay” services hikers because the climb to the summit to witness the sunrise starts late in the night. Complementing this, there are guides who have been trained to lead hiking groups.  And villagers offer local food and crafts as souvenirs.

In the towns of Antique, there are trained guides for a ride called water-tubing where tourists ride individual rubber floats along a river, now a very popular attraction; trained masseurs for tired bodies; and trained videographers to document the tourist’s experience – all small enterprises that support the resorts.

Tourism is not only a word, most locals now know it as a reality that is affecting their lives.  We need sustained efforts to keep them aware of tourism’s vast potential to affect even those who may feel insignificant in the scheme of economic development.

Government and private organizations continue to work on deepening this awareness. Recently, a Tourism Summit organized by Go Negosyo, a non-profit organization, in partnership with Department of Tourism, gathered tourism companies, MSMEs, students, travel influencers, and content creators to discuss the vast opportunities offered by the tourism industry to MSMEs.

Joey Concepcion, who heads Go Negosyo, puts the role of tourism clearly: “Tourism has the potential to help MSMEs especially those in the provinces. We have to strengthen the pace of our economy and help those at the bottom of the pyramid so that the pyramid becomes a circle, a circle of prosperity where everyone benefits, where everyone helps each other and each link is crucial to the health of the entire circle.”

Concepcion, president and chief operating officer of RFM Food Corporation, knows only too well the results of successful businesses to the economy. “More MSMEs, more jobs. More jobs, more powerful consumers, which leads to more businesses being set up.” 

The vast potential presented by tourism to the MSMEs complements the private sectors’ support to the tourism industry.  In the same forum, President Marcos lauded the significant contribution of the private sector to the country’s tourism sector, noting how it has made destinations in the Philippines stand out from all the others.

We can start by working on the “circle of prosperity where each link is crucial to the health of the whole circle” espoused by Concepcion. Making the Philippines a prime tourist destination starts from the locals – you and me.  Choose to visit domestic destinations; buy local products, especially souvenir items; support leisure activities run by locals; and spread the good experience in social media.