Experts during the 1st National Agritourism Research Conference in UP Los Baños agreed that agritourism in the Philippines has a long way to go before becoming an economic driver of rural communities – facing challenges in administration, policy, regulation, and product development.
But they likewise accorded that steps such as the conflation of research on the subject can significantly contribute to the development of the field.
Agritourism farms are scattered throughout the country, the most famous of which include Benguet and Guimaras. Leisure farms or farm resorts, as termed by the Department of Tourism (DOT), are those with resort, accommodation, and dining components. These too have sprung up in different regions of the country.
Policy and planning undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture (DA), Segfredo Serrano, said that amid the dwindling contribution of agriculture to Gross Domestic Product, from 30 to 40 percentage half-century ago to today’s 15 to 18 percent, agritourism can work in the Philippines because farming is an integral part of Filipino culture.
Collaboration for agritourism
The industry is facing the question of who should lead today’s private sector-driven agritourism.
“Unfortunately, up to this point, the agriculture and tourism sectors have been mutually exclusive,” said Gil Saguiguit, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study (SEARCA), one of the conference organizers.
In 2002, the DOT and DA signed a joint memorandum of agreement for the promotion and development of agritourism.
Agritourism has been marked as an identified product by the DOT, and has been integrated into the accreditation program with a set of guidelines on what can be considered as an agritourism site.
Miguela Mena, dean of the UP Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT), revealed that both an inventory of operating farms and a “more aggressive” program for agritourism are yet to be produced by the partnership of the two lead national agencies, DOT and DA.
For the Philippines, its potential markets are the domestic travelers and the balikbayan who wish to experience the rural life.
“It still has to be marketed and promoted extensively,” furthered Mena who, about a decade ago, had been involved in a study group that looked for possible farms with the tourism appeal.
Meanwhile, Serrano admitted that his agency has no “special program” to support agritourism. He argued that DA’s focus is largely on food security.
He has, however, ascertained that their current project lineup will benefit tourism. The DA’s budget has been allocated for marketing, production, and public infrastructure projects that include improved accessibility to agritourism farms.
Supporters of agritourism remarked that the linkage of the two national agencies, together with the local government units, would have to be strengthened.
The three-day agritourism conference was organized by SEARCA and AIT, assisted by select students from the tourism institute.
SEARCA was founded in 1966 by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization to offer high quality graduate study, conduct research, and publish findings in the field of agriculture. – As reported by Travel Update Philippines
Travel Update Philippines: www.travelupdateph.com