Today’s youth has the spending capability and insatiable thirst for exploring and sharing their experiences, redefining the face of tourism through social media which is now teeming with proof of their adventures and other travel stories. We now have a glut of breathtaking photos and cool travel videos of themselves scaling a mountain, diving under the sea, or dashing over green pastures from a very high zipline.
Such diverse travel experiences prove that the young ones have made significant strides in helping make tourism the vibrant industry that it is now. Which is the reason why experts in the industry are now looking at them to put meaning to their sightseeing adventures by practicing Responsible Travel.
Responsible Tourism is, in fact, Sustainable Tourism because it allows tourists to enjoy their presence in an area while creating a positive impact on and enhancing the preservation of such area.
Because many young travelers these days go for authentic experiences, they avail of Homestay, which is a facet of Sustainable Tourism, and allows them to interact with locals, appreciate products produced by the community, and understand the importance of protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy.
Homestay was just one of the topics discussed by experts at the recently concluded Global Youth Forum which had the theme “Youth On Sustainable Tourism.” The two-day event, held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center, was organized by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor who now heads the Subic-based International School of Sustainable Tourism. It was co-presented by the Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
Attended by more than 500 students and faculty members of Tourism schools in the country, the forum also brought in government officials from the country’s various regions. The event pushed forward the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) announcement that this year is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Making it even more significant, the event also celebrated the chairmanship of the Philippines of the upcoming “ASEAN 2017: 50th Anniversary.”
The very interesting topics tackled during the two-day event were: Heritage Tourism: Building A Strong Foundation Through Cultural Preservation, Striking A Balance: Ecotourism For Environmental Conservation and Rural Development, A Match Made in Heaven: Community Development and Tourism, Doing Our Part: Responsible Travelling for the Millennial Traveller, and A Green Future: Career Opportunities in Sustainable Development in Tourism.
I was part of the four-man panel that discussed the last topic. My colleagues in this segment were Jie Cheng Wong from the Pacific Asia Travel Association Headquarters in Bangkok; Rafael Dionisio, co-founder of Make A Difference Travel; and Robert John Horrigan, vice president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines.
The four of us gave various perspectives of job opportunities in the Tourism industry, including those in Sustainable Tourism, which we still do not see in the Classified Ads section of any newspaper. This is because most of these jobs are highly specialized and require extensive training. As such, they are currently handled by in-house specialists of the various government agencies that deal either with environment preservation, cultural heritage, or conservation of natural resources.
Hopefully, when we make the youth understand and appreciate the value of Sustainable Tourism, they will help us shape the industry, as Responsible Travel gains more traction, making sure that future generations will still be able to enjoy whatever natural and cultural attractions we have today.
I must commend the untiring efforts of former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor who continues to make our country’s Tourism industry keep pace with that of our neighbors and the rest of the world. She is always at the forefront of burning issues in the industry, finding ways to allow those of us involved, to make an informed and valid decision on what our next step should be.
Based on the interaction the students had with the speakers during the Q&A segment, they definitely took to heart what they learned during the two-day event and I overheard some student groups who were already planning their own fora where they could cascade to their schoolmates the important information they obtained from the forum.
With the millennials actively involved, we can now make Sustainable Tourism an important factor in promoting our industry, just like how it is done by our counterparts in the rest of the world. Now, whoever said “Youth is wasted on the young” should eat his heart out. That’s definitely not the case in the Tourism industry.
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