By Ma. Emelie G. Daquipil

 “Heritage Tourism, to be truly sustainable, should involve the communities; it is showing tourists what everyday life is all about”.

These were the words of Dr. Mary Ann Alabanza Akers, key speaker of the BLISTT Forum on Planning for Heritage Tourism which was held on January 4, 2013 at the RDC Hall, NEDA-CAR, Baguio City. Dr. Akers is the Dean for the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.  She is the daughter of former NEDA Regional Director Joseph M. Alabanza.

The said forum was attended by representatives from the BLISTT city/municipalities, (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay), and other municipalities of Benguet, RLAs, NGOs and the RDC’s Private Sector representatives.

In her talk, Dr. Akers enumerated the principles of Sustainable Tourism, namely: 1) Connect to the story and heritage of the place; 2) Clearly define your values as a team and solicit buy-in from local decision-makers; 3) Develop an over-all strategic and comprehensive plan first; 4) Provide strong wayfinding/orientation markers through the use of the natural environment; and 5) Cater each site to a target group.

She also shared her experiences and learnings from her tourism projects such as the Harriet Tubman and Underground Master Plan for Caroline County in Eastern Shore, Maryland. She advised that “… planners for tourism projects should involve as many sectors as possible.” 

The forum was jointly coordinated by the Cordillera’s Regional Development Council, the Department of Tourism and the National Economic and Development Authority.  It is one of the activities under the BLISTT Area Development Planning and Alliance-Building Project which is being funded by the RDC.