CEBU CITY -- Aside from the attractions of an area, local residents need to have a bigger role if Cebu wants to develop community-based tourism (CBT).
Asia Pacific Projects Inc. president Ludwig Rieder, who spoke at the 7th Sun.Star Economic Forum on Thursday, said tourists interested in community-based tourism want to experience the local culture.
For them to get the complete experience, locals will have to provide food and beverage, accommodations and in some cases, transportation. They will also have to serve as guides.
For CBT to work, Rieder said the government, private sector and the local community will have to work together to provide all the needed services that tourists need to sustain the project.
Rieder, who spoke on the trends and opportunities of CBT, also noted that tourists who choose community tourism tend to pick packages that are sensitive to local cultures and are environmentally-friendly.
To compete in the global market, Rieder said Cebu must be ready to follow what he described as the triple bottomline business model.
The model aims to introduce, not just profit, but environmental and social responsibility.
Cebu Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale said that in Aloguinsan town, the Bojo River eco-tour has been successful in bringing in tourists.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who gave the keynote address, explained that generations of residents in Algouinsan relied on the Bojo River for fishing.
Years later, they realized that they "over-fished" and needed to do something to bring back their source of livelihood.
Today, the town of Aloguinsan showcases the Bojo River as an eco-tourism destination, where locals hold guided tours of the river. They have been trained in bird guiding and bird calling for bird watching enthusiasts.
Another success story is the extreme-adventure destination in Danao, Bohol.
With only a "beautiful gorge" to brag about in the sixth-class municipality, the local government of Danao, Bohol loaned P70 million to construct a zipline cable and offer ziplining to those who love extreme adventure.
Today, the town earns P4 million a month from an average 250 tourists a day.
Danao, Bohol tourism officer Jerome Labra credits a "brave and proactive" local government, creativity and imagination and the ecological resources of Danao for the success of the program.
The town is now constructing a 1.5-kilometer zipline and hopes to have the longest zipline in Asia for extreme adventure enthusiasts.
The forum's theme was "Opportunities for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in Community-Based Tourism and IT-enabled Industries."
Aside from tourism, the discussion also led to the opportunities that Cebu can take advantage of in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
Cesar Tolentino, executive director of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines, noted that there is still room for more SME BPOs.
He said that the trend in American-based SMEs is to look for BPOs that offer a very specialized service.
Instead of getting all the services pertaining to human resource management, some foreign companies will search for a smaller BPO and get only the service they require.
Niche services that are seeing a higher demand are for billing and collection, financial statement preparations, employee benefits management, advertising campaign conceptualization, design and execution.
Tolentino said other areas that can be tapped are in animation, game development, graphic arts and design, interior design, architectural design, industrial design and fashion design.
Some concerns, though, were raised about the fast-growing industry.
Bonifacio Belen, executive vice president and operations head of TeleDevelopment Services, said 98 percent of BPOs are owned by foreign companies.
He noted that local businessmen who have the means to embark on the BPO industry lack the knowledge to operate such a business.
Also, Bureau of Export Trade Promotions Director Michael Fabian pointed out that there are countless opportunities but few takers.
He cited an instance wherein he contacted IT companies to inform them of an available scholarship for 10 persons offered by the Dutch government. It would have trained them on how to enter the European market. After two weeks, only two signified interest. (Mia A. Aznar of Sun.Star Cebu)