It helps to be a former Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture to break the myopia of what tourism is all about and also the notion of the people as well as the thrust of former leadership of the Tourism is to consider “farm tourism” as another channel to promote tourism in the Philippines.
Thus, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat wants the people to look at “farm tourism” that would help boost the agriculture sector, which constitutes just 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“The Philippines is so beautiful, it’s so easy to sell. Farm tourism sites encourages the tourists to go to the farms,” she said.
Puyat, who was former agriculture undersecretary before being appointed to head the Department of Tourism (DOT), said the enactment of the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016 also helped promote agriculture.
“When I joined DA (Department of Agriculture), nobody was really interested in agriculture. It wasn’t considered enticing or attractive to many people. Now everybody wants to buy local, everybody wants to support local,” she said.
“People don’t just go to the beaches, they just don’t go shopping. They also like to go to the farms and harvest they produce themselves”she added.
This is prevalent in Benguet, where people go to strawberry farm, pick the strawberries they want and pay.
According to Puyat, there are least 10 accredited farm sites joined the recent food and travel expo Philippine Harvest, which showcased local products from different parts of the country.
Last July, the DOT and the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) hosted the first Global Farm Tourism Summit that sought to promote the emerging trend among farm owners, local governments and the academe.
Former DOT Secretary Dr. Mina Gabor, ISST president, said converting farmlands into tourist destinations “has changed completely the whole scenario of farming.”
Gabor narrated that since the farm tourism law was enacted, they had seen “indications” of an uptrend in the sector but really hard to come up with figures on farm tourism arrivals and the revenues generated.
The DOT coordinates with the regional agriculture offices in identifying farm tourism sites in the provinces, Puyat said.
Among the existing destinations, she said, are the grape farms in La Union, an orange farm in Sagada, Mountain Province; and the Costales Nature Farm in Majayjay, Laguna.
Farm tourism also helps promote indigenous products like the adlai grains that are being produced in Mindanao.At the summit, Dr. Ruperto Sangalang, President of Cavite State University (CvSU)said there were about 32 accredited farm tourism projects in the Philippines, about half of which are located in the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon region.
“Inclusiveness of the poor farmers is also an important concern … How can they benefit from this booming farm tourism projects,” Sangalang said.
The Cavite State University plans to open an 8to 10-hectare farm in Indang, Cavite, as a university-run farm tourism site.
Meanwhile, Gabor said they would encourage the creation of “cluster destinations” wherein a single destination could offer a variety of products.
For the Tourism Chief who expressed optimism in the “farm tourism” said, “Even the youth are more interested in agriculture. The Philippines is so beautiful, it’s so easy to sell.”