I WAS invited by a municipal mayor in southern Negros to have a lunch with his family in a comely beach house (owned by his family). Food is best especially grilled “lison.” The post-meal conversation over a cup of brewed coffee hops from politics to tourism.
Mr. Mayor wants to position his town as a “holiday-maker” because of fine beaches, seafood, rice paddies, traditional nipa-bamboo houses, melons and coconuts, religious fiestas, town festival, organic vegetables, community folklore, and scenic hills. “We don’t have much in tourism yet. We perform well during Panaad Festival. We want something else beyond Panaad.” He wanted a little talk from me.
Tourism is not an overnight sensation. You have to culture tourism by nurturing it, taming it, making it a part of your life… and in due time, it will fly. Mr. Mayor, you have to be Mr. Tourism in your town together with the other officials and your employees. The residents in your area should understand tourism and the importance of community-based tourism.
The culture of tourism should be born in the midst of the community.
Think tourism. Speak tourism. Do tourism. Be committed to tourism. Be dedicated to tourism. Establish a tourism community. Your tourism show window starts at your municipal building, “the balay tourism.”
Train your employees to be “Mabuhay Oriented” to those who do business in the town house… capitalizing on good manners, right conduct, smiling faces and kind words seen in the attitude. You will need a talented tourism officer to start the ball rolling.
Those coming to the “municipio” would want to experience a clean and comfortable toilet. The tables and chairs in all the offices should be in proper order (with a lady’s touch).
Government employees should wear their uniform with dignity and pride. The information counter should have charming frontliners, and the watchmen assigned to secure the municipal building should not sport “poker” faces. We can call that positive attitude as “political tourism.”
Your municipal building, plaza, streets, market, schools and other existing buildings should be tourist attractions. Everything should be in “tourism order,” including your beautification program, clean and green, sanitary landfill, and model farm lots at the side of the Agriculture Building.
The town can be in “tourism order” if there is peace and order and the traffic flow is in excellent presentation. It is good to see a town that people use the pedestrian lanes and garbage is properly disposed.
Discipline is an ingredient of tourism considering that now we have a “no smoking” national law (no burning, no urinating and spitting in public places). Train good tour guides from among the employees, teachers, students, church members, drivers and vendors. Tourism is something that your folks should tell. Your people, Mr. Mayor, should know where your tourist attractions are. Organize tourism brigade in your barangays.
What you do in tourism, other people should know. Your Mayor’s Office have “bright boys and girls” who can make use of the social media, radio, television, and newspapers other than your community newsletter. Your public school teachers can always insert in their curricular framework “tourism that matters.”
Participate actively in Tourism Month Celebration by having tourism quiz, tour guiding competition, familiarization tours, tourism essay writing contest, poster-slogan contest, and invite very good speakers in your forum.
Your tourism program should be geared towards the transformation of your town. Advise your executive assistants not to talk about “frontal politics.” The approach should be “tourism politics.” Let the residents understand what they can get from community-based tourism other than attracting tourists to come to your town. They could have income from the delicacies, handicrafts, potted plants, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and services.
Attracting visitors is just the first step. Meet the local investors and businessmen in your town and come up with wonderful investment portfolio backed up by your municipal ordinances. You will be dealing not only with Negros investors but also with Manila-based and world-based investors.
Invite the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) to assist you.
Invite congressmen, senators and secretaries to visit your place during fiestas and festivals. Let them come up with tourism-related projects.
Surprise visitors by showcasing that your plaza is selling your town products and featuring your culture. People will love to see that there is no “ukay-ukay” and “pula-puti” (gambling) in your plaza. You have to showcase your local talents, not the expensive movie stars. That is tourism. Mr. Mayor, you will have them all by simply culturing tourism.