Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday said activities and travels related to agriculture and environment will be the new growth areas and will provide the impetus to revive travel and tourism, which were most adversely affected sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all know that the ongoing lockdowns all over the country and the world has really hit the travel and tourism sector hard," said Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture and environment committee.
She noted that the industries related to it, especially hotels and airlines, are really reeling until now.
"Increased interest and popularity of farm tourism and eco-tourism will provide the much-needed impetus to the sector,” she said.
After being locked down for months, she said people are longing to get reconnected to nature.
"Filipinos have also turned to gardening and growing their food. They can continue to do or pursue those interests and experiences when they visit a farm or a natural tourist attraction when things go back to normal or when quarantine eases”.
The senator thus urged concerned department such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources to work closely with the Department of Tourism, local government units or tourism boards and associations to put in place strategies and support mechanisms for businesses and entrepreneurs involved in farm tourism and eco-tourism.
According to travel experts, destinations in natural surroundings have become even more in demand. They said that eco-tourism and agritourism – where farming and nature blend with nature – will provide the much-needed boost in travel and tourism in the new normal.
Aside from businesses, Villar said the biggest beneficiaries of the new travel trend will be the local communities including farmers and fisherfolks.
Villar, who is the primary author and sponsor of the Republic Act No. 10816 or the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, said the legislative framework is in place and industry players need support and guidance from the government as they operate in the new normal setup. The said law paved the way for an increasing number of farmers, farm owners and farming communities to enjoy the benefits of converting their farms into farm tourism sites.
“In the last four years, since the law was passed, there has been a huge increase in farm tourism destinations all over the country. We published a book (Directory of Farm Schools, Tourist Farms and Learning Sites in the Philippines), from a list of only 386 in its first edition, the number has reached over 2,500. There are hundreds more out there that are not yet listed in our directory,” said Villar.
Even the Food and Agriculture Organization has acknowledged the key role of farm tourism, it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with DoT to push for more farm tourism development
in the country. She added that the Philippines has all the distinct advantages in farm tourism and eco-tourism—being an agricultural country with rich farming heritage, abundant natural resources, diverse geography perfect for various activities/adventures and hospitable people.