Tourism and Sustainable Development

Manila Bulletin, July 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Tourism and Sustainable Development


Byline: Fidel Valdez Ramos

IN our time, achieving "progress" or "development" is the highest aspiration and ultimate goal of every people. Stated most simply, "development" is the sustained capacity to achieve planned change to improve self-consciously the quality of life in a given community. Approaches and strategies to development have changed drastically over this past half-century. In our country during the post-independence period industrialization was the focus of development. All along, people had accepted that pollution, smoggy skies, and degraded lands were the unavoidable price of progress. Subsequently, "rural development" that sought economic growth in the countryside with social equity became the byword.

Starting in the 1990s, new dimensions of development came to the fore. "Environmentalists" began to warn of the adverse effects of over-development on the health and lives of individuals and even on the survival of communities. Governments and peoples became aware of the ill-effects of the denudation of forests; the loss of biodiversity; the degradation of coastal and marine habitats; the silting-up of rivers; the warming up of the oceans; the destruction of coral reefs; and so forth. This new awareness set off a radical change in peoples mindset. It gave rise to the idea of "sustainable development," which is "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

To implement the mandate of "Earth Agenda 21" the main outcome of the Rio Summit of June 1992 of the United Nations the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) established in September 1992 adopted Philippine Agenda 21 (PA-21), which defined "sustainable development" as the "harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsive governance, social cohesion, and ecological integrity to ensure that development becomes a life-enhancing process."

Meanwhile, the globalization of trade was forcing our policy-makers to focus the economy on industries and services in which our country would have the best comparative advantage. And, given the Philippine archipelagos natural endowments of sun, seas, mountains, forests, and beaches, the Government decided on tourism as a prime competitive advantage of the economy.

Obviously, our archipelago has a great deal to offer. We have some 7,107 islands, many with the best nature sanctuaries, coral reefs and green hideaways in the world. Beyond these God-given endowments, Filipinos have a rich cultural heritage. There is considerable variety in our arts, crafts, music, dance, cuisine and traditions in our whole way of life, in fact that constitute a unique mix of the ethnic and the cosmopolitan.

In the end, the Filipinos themselves because of their hospitality, their natural warmth, their cheerfulness, their instinctive friendliness are Philippine tourisms most precious resource.

Changing patterns in tourism

While the Philippines has so much to offer, we must still learn how to position ourselves in the global tourism market how to make the best use of our competitive advantages. Tourism itself is changing rapidly as nature, heritage, adventure and recreational destinations become more popular, and as conventional tourism is faced with tougher environmental restrictions. In an era of heightened environmental consciousness, countries are busily promoting their natural resources as tourist attractions. The idea is to preserve the natural resources while also promoting them. This is the new concept of "eco-tourism."

The World Tourism Organization reports that ecotourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourist market. Already accounting for 6% of global GDP and 11.4% of all consumer spending as of 2003, eco-tourism is expanding by 5% annually worldwide. Ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, personal fulfillment, and new ways of learning how to live with nature. …

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