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Cebu urged to aim for sustainable, quality tourism

Having a competitive and inclusive tourism sector makes Cebu one of the leaders in the Philippine tourism industry, but what is its narrative on sustainable tourism?

This question was posed by Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Arturo P. Boncato Jr. in his speech during the Tourism Innovation Forum on June 18, 2019.

He said Cebu should really consider taking on the quest for quality.

“I think Cebu should really look at this - quest for quality - because Cebu is number 1, and we say that confidently that Cebu is leading the tourism industry and we want you to continue that quest for quality. Creating a culture of sustainable tourism is only one part of it,” Boncato said.

He cited Oslob, a once-sleepy town of less than 30,000 people in southern Cebu that has seen a boost in tourism in recent years because of the whale sharks.

Boncato said Oslob currently hosts an average of 1,500, sometimes even up to 3,000, tourists a day. But a study showed that the town has a carrying capacity of only 460 tourists a day.

The DOT official, who is in charge of tourism regulation, coordination and resource generation, said overtourism is “real and upon us”.

“The question is what should we do, or what should Cebu do to address overtourism?” Boncato said.

In Boracay, #LaBoracay gathered about 100,000 people on the White Beach, which is capable only of holding about 19,000 people at any given time.

A study undertaken by the University of the Philippines in Los Baños concluded that there should only be 19,215 people at any given time in Boracay’s major beaches.

So far, Boncato said Boracay has not reached even half of this figure based on arrivals and departure data.

Boracay has since become the poster area for the DOT’s campaign to create a culture of sustainable tourism and hailed by the Asian Development Bank as a milestone for sustainable tourism.

The island was shut down to tourists for six months in 2018, from April to October, to give way to a massive cleanup and attempt to reverse its environmental degradation.

Initiatives to ensure that there is no repeat of another Boracay are being undertaken in Manila Bay, Siargao and Sagada, among others.

Boncato said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, during some international meetings, has changed the department’s narrative to stress that the Philippines is not just looking to increase the number of tourist arrivals, but is also seeking to improve the quality of tourists.

“We’re not number-centric 100%. We’d like to look at the quality of our tourists,” he said.

Boncato said Cebu is already a leader in Philippine tourism, having a competitive and inclusive tourism industry.

For every hotel that opens in Cebu, four or five new employees are hired per room, he noted.

The tourism forum was one of the highlights of the Cebu Business Month celebration in 2019. (Ventures Cebu)

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