Tourist arrivals in CAR grew at an average growth rate of 8.41 percent from 2004 to 2006 with 992,918 arrivals recorded in 2006. The WOW Philippines Cordilleras’ Best was institutionalized in 2006 giving recognition to CAR’s attractions in a single venue and giving its provinces the opportunity to promote their respective tourist attractions through an organized competition and exhibition where the best performers were recognized and awarded. Past WOW Philippines activities have encouraged the provinces to develop more festivals and tourism products thus bringing the provinces a growing share in the number of visitors from 8.04 percent from the previous plan period to 28.4 percent in 2006.
The tourism sector is faced with the following challenges :
Negative Travel Advisories. The Meninggo scare that struck the region during the last quarter of 2004 and first quarter of 2005 resulted to the cancellation of bookings for conferences and reservations on hotel accommodations in Baguio and Benguet. In Abra, unstable peace and order situation caused tourist arrivals to drop. Foreign tourist arrivals fell due to negative travel advisories of foreign embassies.
Poor Accessibility Leading to the Region. Accessibility remains as a major stumbling block to the growth of tourism in the region. The region has one of the poorest road networks in the entire country. In terms of air access, the Loakan Airport becomes unreliable during the inclement weather because of inadequate navigational facilities.
Continuous Deterioration of Tourist Destination. Many LGUs failed to maintain their tourist sites and allowed the proliferation of establishments and stalls near tourist areas.
Inadequate Support on Tourism. Tourism marketing and promotions are activities devolved to the local government. However, some LGUs consider tourism among their last priority as shown by their local budgets. Some LGUs have tourism officers but only on a designated status and performing other functions. Some LGUs were observed to be reluctant in giving their full support to tourism promotions.
The region’s capability to meet its goal as a prime ecotourism destination is well in place on account of its cool mountain environment, dramatic sceneries, rich cultural and unique must-see tourist destinations that are ideal for ecotourism.
CAR Inclusion in the NL-Regional Economic Cluster. The cluster known to have explored cooperative arrangements in tourism with leading Asia-Pacific economies like Taiwan, Southern China, Hongkong, Japan and Korea, can bring tourism investments to the region.
CAR to Benefit from the Super Regions Strategy. Investments in infrastructure are among the benefits that CAR will derive as part of the super regions. A critical factor in tourism promotion is the accessibility of destination giving emphasis on the convenience, comfort and safety of travelers visiting the Cordillera. Good roads will reduce travel time of visitors while making the trip enjoyable. With lower travel time, visitors can lengthen their stay and will most likely go on return visits.
The UNESCO Declaration of Ifugao Rice Terraces as World Heritage Site and the First Living Cultural Landscape. The Ifugao Rice Terraces included in the UNESCO World Heritage List gives recognition to the importance of maintaining cultural, ecological and agricultural balance in the area in order to preserve a world-renowned resource.
National Tourism Development Identified CAR a Tourism Complex. CAR is identified in the National Development Agenda for Tourism Development for 2005-2010. The region was identified under “Specific Projects for Investors in Wealth Creation” as one of the tourism complexes to be developed within the plan period aside from Metro-Manila-Tagaytay, Cebu-Bohol-Siargao, Northern Palawan, Boracay, Clark-Subic, Ilocos and Davao.
3.7.4 Goal, Objectives, Targets
Goal. The Cordillera as the premier ecotourism paradise, frequently sought for its cool climate, rich natural landscape, diverse tribal culture, historical sites and events, sustained through community stakeholdership and responsible tourism.
Objectives. Towards the attainment of this goal, the following objectives will be pursued:
- To increase socio-economic benefits derived from eco-tourism activities
- To improve and maintain the quality of tourism assets in the region
- To improve visitor satisfaction as manifested by lengthened stay and return visits
- To disperse tourist arrivals to the provinces and increased year round visits.
- To spread ecotourism benefits to local communities not only for employment generation and poverty alleviation but also for the sustainability of the tourism industry.
Targets. The region shall attract at least 1,000,000 visitors every year from 2008 to 2010. Tourist arrivals in all provinces shall increase by 5% every year.
Strengthen coordination on the improvement of air and land transport and the provision of other tourism infrastructures. The tourism sector shall intensify identification of priority tourism assets and strengthen linkages with other agencies for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges and airports leading to and from the priority destinations, and to encourage private sector involvement in the provision of tourism-related infrastructure facilities in priority tourist destinations.
Strengthen partnership in the adoption and implementation of policies to enhance the region’s image as a tourist destination. In coordination with the PNP, DND and local authorities, there will be stronger enforcement of laws to ensure a peaceful and orderly environment for the security and safety of everybody. The media will be harnessed to enhance and develop a positive image of the region as an ecotourism destination.
Implementation of tourism cluster development approach. The preservation, conservation and enhancement of the natural environment shall go hand-in-hand with tourism development undertakings. In this connection, the carrying capacity concept shall be integrated in the planning, development and management of ecotourism areas.
Establish networking of ecotourism stakeholders thru ICT. The establishment of ICT networks that aim to facilitate sharing of ideas and information as well as exchange of techniques and best practices in developing ecotourism products shall be encouraged.
Strengthen regional tourism institutions/bodies including provincial and municipal tourism councils. The Regional Ecotourism Committee (REC) shall be strengthened with the leadership of DOT and DENR and active participation from the private sector, NGOs, LGUs and concerned government agencies to ensure effective coordination and collaboration in the planning and implementation of tourism undertakings, complementation of programs and optimum use of resources.
Intensification of fund sourcing for tourism sites, project development and product researches. The sourcing of funds shall be pursued for feasibility study preparation and implementation of development projects and product researches.
Enhancement of Regional Ecotourism Database and Collection System. At present, existing indicators are aimed at measuring the industry’s economic performance, i.e., tourist arrivals, receipts and accommodation occupancy rates. In the long term, however, and in accordance with the niche concept, indicators to evaluate environmental quality with tourism use such as carrying capacity shall be pursued through the establishment of a tourism satellite account designed to measure the contributions of tourism to the economy.
Intensification of promotion and marketing activities. The LGUs will continue to perform devolved tourism functions in planning, development, promotion and regulation pursuant to the LGC. They will be encouraged to promulgate appropriate ordinances and local legislations pertaining to the maintenance of tourist facilities and attractions, as well as regulation and supervision of business concessions. They will be encouraged to provide local incentives for tourism investments, preserve cultural heritage, and promote sustainable tourism practices and management.
Manpower development of tourist and tourist-related establishments. Training programs for tourism industry personnel shall be conducted to provide frontline services as well as managerial and entrepreneurial skills training for those providing tourism services to disperse benefits from tourism to local businesses and the community.
3.7.6 Programs / Projects
- Capacity Building and Enhancement Program;
- Tourism Site Development Program for Growth Acceleration in the Cordillera;
- Tourism Facilities Improvement Project;
- Science and Technology in Tourism;
- Community-Based Sustainable Tourism Action for the Region-Cordillera (COMBSTAR);
- Ecotourism Development for Binga and Ambuclao Dams; and
- Strategic Environmental Enterpreneurship in Selected Biological Corridors in CAR