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Thursday, February 22, 2024

A green event

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Hats off to my dear friend, former Tourism Secretary Dr. Mina Gabor, for having pulled off the world’s first-ever Ecotourism Travel Mart. She actually found out during the pandemic that she won the bid to host the event here in Manila but she couldn’t do anything about it because international borders were closed to outgoing and incoming travel.  

Of course, once quarantine restrictions were lowered, Mina immediately started the ball rolling and formed a team of similarly hardworking tourism industry practitioners to help her take care of the million-and-one details needed to put together this world event.

Held in Silang, Cavite, the five-day International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM) showed how collaboration and commitment push ecotourism to its rightful place as a prime mover for the kind of tourism that nurtures the environment and uplifts communities hosting the sites.  

Presented by the Asian Ecotourism Network, together with our Department of Tourism (DOT), the IETM was organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) of which Mina is the chair and president. The lush green grounds of the ISST provided the perfect venue for the event, which had a theme “Embracing Authentic Ecotourism.”

Through this first international green event, the Philippines has carved its name in history, as 25 participating nations networked, shared learnings and resources, engaged and discovered more during the multi-faceted exposition and festival.  

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The Singkaban, the decorated bamboo arch, provides a festive and authentic Filipino welcome to the IETM guests which averaged a thousand daily

During the opening ceremony, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco stated that “tourism can no longer just be about quantity but rather quality. For this reason, events such as this that highlights the importance of sustainability are a gift to our country and the world.”  

For his part, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista presented transport innovations planned with sustainability in mind.  He said, “Transport is an essential part of tourism, and these sectors can make substantial contributions to sustainability with its relentless pursuit.”

Other VIPs who attended the event were Mayor Alston Kevin Anarna of Silang, Cavite, Dr. Mundita Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Wanvipa Phanumat, director of the Thailand-based Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA), and Masaru Takayama, chair of the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN).

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the VIP guests which include Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista and Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco join ISST chair and president Dr. Mina Gabor beam the heart sign

Alluring beauties also graced the event: Miss Earth 2022 Mina Sue Choi, Miss Indonesia Earth Karina Basrewan, and Miss Philippines Earth Jenny Ramp.

The multifaceted event had a Market Place where exhibitors showcased eco-products, while 300 guests attended various Ecotourism Fora spread over two full days.  

DOT Usec. Verna Buensuceso started the series by showcasing DOT’s thrusts on sustainability, while Dr. Gabor capped it with the topic of forming viable tour packages. There was also a Butterfly Garden with hundreds of species, and a “Fishalan” of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which featured aquaponics. Cultural presentations made the event more memorable and meaningful.

A highlight of the event was when the participants joined in the pledge embodied in the Silang, Cavite Declaration on Ecotourism Marketing and Promotion which called for its adoption in Asia Pacific countries. This commitment embodies respecting and valuing contemporary and traditional culture and heritage of the communities, using locally produced materials, and providing positive visitor experience during visits to historically and culturally sensitive sites.

Thanks to our indefatigable Dr. Mina Gabor, our country has now etched its name on the pillar of the world’s tourism industry as having taken the lead in putting together the first-ever green event.  

For feedback, I’m at bobzozobrado@gmail.com.

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