THE rehabilitation of Boracay Island, the vaccination of tourism workers, and promotion of low-impact activities were cited as initiatives by the Philippine government to ensure sustainable development of its tourism destinations at the recent summit of tourism ministers at the World Travel Market 2021 in London.

During the panel discussion on “Investing in Tourism’s Sustainable Future,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said, “The Philippines promotes sustainable tourism; our most popular destination Boracay Island, was closed for six months [in 2018] because the president [Duterte] wanted to implement environmental laws.”

She added, when Covid-19 made its way across the globe, the Philippines tourism sector was among the hardest hit among economic engines. “So we recognized the importance of our tourism workers not only in the safe resumption of travel, but more importantly on their role to championing sustainable tourism practices across the sector.”

As such, she stressed, government is making sure tourism workers are vaccinated 100 percent.

“[We] want to make sure that when we accept our tourists, we are not only accepting vaccinated individuals, but we have to make sure that our tourism workers are vaccinated so that they are safe.”

Romulo Puyat said the country has already “shifted to high-value, low-impact, low-density travel that offers more meaningful and immersive experiences between a tourist and the local communities. We continue to empower our rural communities and work hand-in-hand with different local government units so that they are equipped to develop and manage their tourism sites, whether they be for farm tourism sites or other community-based people eco-tourism products. These approaches will ensure growth and sustainability, so that more people including the future generation will get to enjoy the fruit of tourism.”

The panel discussion was jointly held by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and WTM. It examined tourism’s sustainable future and the essential role targeted “green investments” will play in achieving this.

‘Bigger threat than Covid-19’

Meanwhile, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili warned that the “climate emergency is a bigger threat than Covid.”

In his opening remarks at the tourism ministers summit, he told delegates that the recent Rome Leaders Declaration issued by the G20  specifically cited the need to restore travel and tourism, which in turn can help developing economies.

He said public investment will “encourage and leverage” private investment all over the world, adding: “Tourism can benefit if governments deliver the right support.“Going back to the old normal is not an option.”

The UNWTO and other tourism and travel stakeholders  officially launched the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at the United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26  on November 4. The WTTC also plans to launch its Net Zero Roadmap for Travel & Tourism, to support the industry in combatting climate change, as part of the sector’s drive towards net zero by 2050.

For her part, Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO, told the summit: “We have no alternative; we have to go green.” She said sustainable growth is a key priority for WTTC, adding: “Investors and the public demand that we invest to protect the planet and people…. We need to invest in making sure destinations are great places to live and not just great places to visit.”

Other panelists at the tourism ministers program were Dr. Khaled El-Enany (Egypt), Vasilis Kikilias (Greece), Massimo Garavaglia (Italy), Rita Marques (Portugal), Memunatu Pratt (Sierra Leone), Nigel Huddleston MP (United Kingdom), as well as Federico González, CEO of the Radisson Hotel Group, and Lavorel, CEO of Sita at Airports & Borders.

Image courtesy of (Image courtesy WTM)

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