THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is studying the carrying capacity of destinations across the country to maintain sustainable tourist attractions.
“Sustainable tourism is the name of our game,” said DOT Undersecretary Art Bongcato Jr.
He said that moving forward, the agency, with the help of the tourism stakeholders, want to strike a balance between the environment and economy.
Bongcato said the rehabilitation of Boracay Island taught the industry tough lessons that need to be re-echoed to other destinations in the country.
He recalled that businesses took center stage in the progress of Boracay before, but with the government’s push for sustainability, concerns on monetary gains took a backseat to determine the sustainable efforts that needed to be implemented to make the island healthy and prosperous for a long time.
“The Philippines is entering a new year in making sustainable tourism a reality, using Boracay as a template,” said Boncato. “After the Boracay experience, we are seeing new scenery. A new reality.” One of the initiatives the agency is looking at is the carrying capacity of destinations.
“We are working on the carrying capacity study of our destinations,” said Bongcato, noting that this is a critical consideration in achieving sustainable tourism.
“We want our stakeholders and guests to respect our carrying capacity and comply with the laws,” he added.
Boracay’s inter-agency task force is strictly enforcing the daily limit of only 6,405 tourists entering the resort island in Malay town, Aklan. With a maximum stay of three days per visitor, the island only ought to have 19,215 tourists in Boracay per day.
In 2018, following Boracay’s initiative, the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office conducted a carrying capacity study for Oslob’s whale shark watching activity, which sets 800 visitors as the maximum capacity per day. This limit, however, has not yet been implemented.
Tourism advocates like Jonathan Jay Aldeguer welcomed this move, saying this is the “beginning of a more responsible, more regulated and systematic method of witnessing the whale sharks in their natural habitat.” Bongcato hopes putting a maximum capacity per destination would benefit the country’s tourism performance, as this would spread the guests to other islands in the country.
The policy, he added, hopes to bring investors to other destinations as well.
But while there are destinations in the country that aren’t as progressive, Bongcato challenged the tourism players and local government units (LGUs) to be transparent in their tourism offerings.
“We also need to manage expectations,” said Bongcato, adding that by being transparent, the feedback mechanism will help improve the destination while at the same time allowing the destination to offer authentic service, which is now a trend in the travel and tourism industry.
While the carrying capacity studies may entail huge resources which local government units cannot fully fund for themselves, Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto was quoted in a report suggesting that the DOT, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior and Local Government select pilot provinces and destinations and identify tourism areas needing the studies so that the government can fund the studies and hopefully present the output to local stakeholders.