IT HAS been tourism-filled week for me last week starting off the First Reading SP Resolution 594 on the Motion of Board Member Nehemias dela Cruz who handles the Tourism Committee in the Provincial Board.

Many tourism officers attended the reading as well as frontliners and stakeholders in the tourism industry to listen to “An ordinance enacting the Negros Occidental Provincial Sustainable Tourism Code to govern the tourism industry in the province, its promotion, development and administration."

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In the past especially with governor Joseph Marañon, great efforts were made towards boosting the tourism industry. Now Governor Freddie Marañon wants to go a step further and truly make the tourism an industry with the maximum participation of all and has assigned Board Member Nene dela Cruz to be the man in helm.

While the ordinance is most comprehensive, the audience was allowed to make their comments and suggestions so that amendments can be made. Just a few ideas were injected into the presentation. One good thing that surfaced was Ramond Javellana’s comment that the maintenance of the Silay airport is now assisted by Mayor Oti Montelibano of Silay City. When the terminal fee was only P30, the airport was clean. Now, that it has risen to P200 there are flies orbiting in the departure area and the comfort room especially in the arrival area is not only dirty but stinks. There is now a parking fee of P40. It is good that Mayor Oti has made this his concern because the airport is the gateway to our Province and always, the first 5 minutes gives the most lasting impression. So, what will be the first 5 minutes of impression our guests will receive if there are bugs flying and smelly toilets?

Board Nene really gave me some good reflections these past days with all the tourism related activities. There was the Western Visayas Tourism Congress in Sugarland Hotel, the Naitas Bacolod-Negros Occidental Induction plus a fam tour for travel agents to Salvador Benedicto hosted by the DE LA CRUZ family. Board Nene insists that we have to change our perception of tourists. He says that we interpret the word tourista as “bisita”. We host their lunches and dinners, we give them free tours with buses or vans in tow plus with the good-byes come the pasalubongs and even the souvenirs.

When you really think about this, every word he says is true!!! While during our travels, the countries we visit enjoy every hard earned peso we make for the trip, we on the other hand, take it upon ourselves to make their visit not only cost efficient but practically No Cash Out!!! We call this Filipino hospitality but this has to change!!! Tourism as an industry will never flourish if we treat people even those we are not familiar with as our personal guests. Yes, they are the guests of our city, our province but we should embrace the culture of tourism which also means that they should contribute to our economy. Mayors should not be burdened to host a meal or meals to every tourist who comes to town. There is no budget for this unless they are truly guests of the Mayor who come for a specific purpose. We are gracious people and we exercise it to the hilt. Things must change and as change is…..it must start with us. We must know where to set our boundaries.

From Congressman Anthony, I learned that to establish an area as a destination, an ordinance has to be passed by Congress. So aside from the Masskara Celebration, he needs help with identifying more areas in Bacolod City as points of interests. He welcomes all suggestions. As a doctor, he also prioritizes that Bacolod should be dengue free considering the number of cases arising. We don’t want tourists to get sick while they are visiting.

Negros Occidental is not wanting in attractions. Whoever has it, we have it according to Board Nene. Churches, Ancestral homes, beaches, diving, caves, adventure sports, you name it we have it. What we need is to put our minds together to make tourism work for us as an industry. While the sugar prices are really at its best, thank you LORD, the tourism industry does not have a season and we can absolutely all enjoy once we have gotten our act together. The Tourism Code aims to determine this and the Tourism Council seeks to make them all a reality.

With so many goings on happening in relation to tourism, we must all partake to its blooming. There is a task for the government, each NGO, and all tourism related agencies from museums to spas to resorts, travel agencies and so many more. With tourism as an industry, everyone……yes everyone from the cigarette vendor up the line to hotels will enjoy its fruits. So, there no cause for anyone not to embrace this industry!!! We all need to help and help we must!!!