Olsim: Planning tourism

AN I-LA Trinidad complained that the valley did not have any urban planning; "I wish Arch. Daniel Burnham extended his plans to La Trinidad. That way, we will have a beautiful park, and better access and routes...not like the chaos that it is today," he quipped.

A planner-colleague lamented the same, "there was not much foresight then. No one considered that we will soon become the most populated Municipality in the region, or that our town will be visited by almost a million tourists annually." Planning is paramount in development, but what if the development was already established before the planning?

The same query is asked on local tourism development. For decades, the tourism industry has been a driving contributor to the increase of economic activity throughout the world. Said progress, however, has brought with it various problems and challenges that must be addressed by sustained and comprehensive action and planning.

Tourism development and promotion are among the mandated functions of local government units (LGUs) as provided by the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160). The National Tourism Act of 2009 (RA 9593) likewise encourages LGUs to ensure that they prepare and implement a tourism development plan. After all, tourism development cannot be implemented without taking into consideration the planning of tourism which involves the planning and management of tourist destinations and in such a way that it minimizes the social and environmental impacts of tourism and provides full socio-economic growth to its communities.

Making use of our tourism downtime amid the NCoViD19 scare, we are currently planning for our local tourism industry's future. After various consultations with tourism stakeholders (more than 16 meetings and consultations), a substantial number favors the existence of the tourism industry in La Trinidad. However, they pointed out that the tourism that they want shall not compromise the daily lives and way of living of the people. Or if ever it will, that the benefits shall outweigh the disadvantages by a long mile. In short, the tourism that they want is one that is about sustainable development -- one that does not only consider the present but also considers the needs of future generations.

They also pointed out the collective effort of stakeholders in improving the tourist destinations so that they will become competitive products for promotions. Meaning, Benguet State University shall invest in the improvement of the Strawberry Farms in line with its academic teachings (Agri-business), the Stobosa community shall sustain their colorful houses, private tourism site owners shall elevate their services which shall include the safety and security of their attractions, the LGU shall provide for programs and policies that will address the regular tourist arrivals, and as much as possible coordinate with line-agencies for the development of infrastructures (most especially access) and product marketing, among others, and the community shall help in the cleanliness and beautification of their home, La Trinidad.

The importance of such a sustainable tourism development plan in tourism development of La Trinidad is aligned towards the world's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the country's National Tourism Development direction of a "Globally competitive, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible tourism industry that promotes inclusive growth..." Though La Trinidad's urban decay cannot be denied, the tourism plan for the next five years will hopefully become the first step towards the revitalization and positive growth of La Trinidad.


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