The International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), founded in 2010, is a Silang, Cavite-based academy which specializes on education and training of those who have chosen a career in tourism industry. The National Geographic Traveller magazine honors it as the “first sustainable tourism school in the Asia Pacific region educating a new generation of leaders”.
Of course, kudos to the school’s founding president, former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, who proudly declares ISST’s aim at becoming the only premier school with recognized excellence in sustainable tourism education in Southeast Asia by 2025.
Knowing the hardworking, always on-the-go Mina Gabor, known by everyone to be a continuous wellspring of new ideas, such goal is as good as achieved.
Tourism ground to a halt as the pandemic sneaked in, but it became an opportunity for ISST to reach out virtually to learners locked down in their homes. The former Tourism Secretary confided that she and her team used the early months of the imposed quarantine restrictions to record the YouTube video series, Changing Landscapes to provide practical pointers for potential students and lay out the groundwork for the school’s online learning offerings.
When quarantine restrictions eased up, the school conducted a very well attended webinar series, Sustainable Tourism Opportunities for Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with the Philippine Small and Medium Business Development Foundation (Philsmed) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport). These virtual educational programs discussed the livelihood opportunities in farm tourism and urban gardening, and featured prominent local and foreign experts as resource speakers.
The 11-year-old educational institution also conducted a Lifestyle Health and New Consciousness webinar with former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, Dr. Albert Jo, and Liz Mehta of HM Design, to address emerging issues and concerns in the “new reality”.
An Edible Landscaping Forum was put up to further enhance undertakings on food security, in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), providing a garden model for residential, commercial, and other available vacant spaces as a healthy food source during the various community quarantine periods, and even way beyond.
The main objective of these webinars was to educate the local government units in Metro Manila and suburbs, for them to replicate these models in their areas toward providing stable food supply to their constituents. In fact, Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivares immediately put up his city’s version of these farm models. Pasay Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano followed suit.
ISST diversified by launching a Food Travel series, putting the spotlight on the rich culinary traditions and food resources of different provinces. Naturally, Pampanga, acknowledged as the country’s culinary capital, was first to take center stage in this program.
The program was a joint effort with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the provincial government. The two-day event featured restaurant stalwarts who helped transform Pampanga into a haven for food tourism with its unique blend of cooking traditions and innovations.
Still not satisfied with its exemplary performance unimpeded by the various quarantine restrictions, ISST has trained its sights on other laudable projects. Among these are the Global Faith-Based Tourism Conference in line with our Quincentennial Commemoration of Christianity, a National Farm Tourism Conference in Bohol, and the Lakbay Bukid Awards which will recognize the industry’s leading personalities.
Furthermore, the indefatigable Mina Gabor is bubbling with excitement as she announces her personal victory in winning the bid to host the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM) here in Manila, to be participated in by global players and stakeholders on Ecotourism. The event will include new systems and technologies in the industry which were developed as a pandemic response.
All these achievements of ISST make me see another facet to it: It’s a school that trains tourism leaders to be as energetic, as hardworking, as enthusiastic, and as creative as its president, Mina Gabor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a beeline of enrollees for the school’s program offerings.
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