Sunday, September 7, 2008

Constructing tourism

Tourism is often associated with traveling to places away from home and arranging tours for those who come here and see what the country is like. Tourism is often presented as a factor of economic growth as it generates livelihood in many sectors like the hotel and restaurant industries, retail shops, transport, cultural and health, guiding and gaming, the list can be endless. In the Philippines, tourism is supposed to contribute at least 10 per cent of the GDP even if it is lumped with the service sector.
Tourism gives the illusion of glamour so being Secretary of the Department of Tourism is a most coveted post. Tourism looks like easy work , lots of fun and loads of money. Every little town aspires to become a tourism destination so foreign currency can pour in. Curiously, despite all the aspirations and since the Department of Tourism was established about four decades ago, the highest recorded tourism arrivals have not gone beyond 3 million.
Since one of our development goals is to make tourism a veritable lifestyle , the “culture of tourism” should be instilled in every Filipino at a very early age, which means that the Department of Education has to make a conscious and determined effort to teach Filipinos to love the Philippines and be proud of being Filipinos. The DepEd has to make sure that in all public and private schools, academic and vocational centers, the pupils are consciously and assiduously taught, at the very least, cultural and visual patriotism. The DepEd once had an excellent campaign to make all Filipinos learn at least ten historical turning points, ten native songs, ten heroes, historical landmarks, heritage sites, artists, works of art, etc.; is that being continued? How can you promote your country effectively if you know nothing about it? How can you invite foreigners to come to your country if you are not sincerely and deeply proud
of it and if you are not sure that it is a good thing to be Filipino?
Once the above goals are achieved, it might take generations if we do not begin now, then the values which we seem to have lost might finally resurface: Sslf-respect, a certain self-confidence, self- reliance that will stimulate creativity and originality, cleanliness, honesty, a natural courtesy and refinement, a pride of self and pride of place; these values and virtues are building blocks for a stable and sustainable tourism industry.
Tourism is necessarily multi-disciplinary which is something local committees and commissions are starting to realize. As mentioned above, the DepEd plays a vital and essential role in the formation of citizens who are tourism advocates and workers. Because tourism is the marketing of a country’s natural resources and its built heritage resources, the construction of a sustainable tourism industry includes urban planners, architects, engineers, both in government and the private sector. It also includes carpenters, masons, carvers, painters , contractors and other construction workers. Let us not forget the clergy. Local government officials more so than national ones are the main protagonists of a sustainable, tasteful and appropriate tourism industry.
Even the police and the military have a vital role in the construction of tourism, not only because they guarantee the physical safely of local and foreign visitors but also because they can enforce the existing laws that protect the environment and natural resources as well as cultural, historical and heritage resources all of which are valuable and irreplaceable tourism products.
All the above-mentioned sectors should be melded into a sort of national philharmonic orchestra with an energetic and dedicated conductor who knows the musical score by heart and who makes sure that everyone follows the rhythm and cadence of the musical composition. That should be the role of the president of the republic, with the secretary of tourism playing the role of the orchestra’s musical director.

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