Philippines gears for first International Ecotourism Travel Mart

The Philippines is hosting from Mar. 29 to Apr. 2 the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM).

The unique world festival puts ecotourism in its rightful place as an effective way to protect the environment and improve the welfare of local communities.

The green event will be held at the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) in Silang, Cavite. The IETM was organized by the Asian Center for Biodiversity (ACB) headed by Dr. Mundita Lim and the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) led by Masaru Takayama.

For four days, international buyers and sellers of ecotourism packages; exhibitors of ecotourism-related and sustainability-advancing products, services and destinations will showcase their diverse offerings to the public.

Mina Gabor, former tourism secretary and champion of sustainable tourism, said delegates from over 20 countries, about 400 to 500 people, were expected to attend. 

The IETM “elevates tourism as a leader in promoting the balance between economic development and harnessing nature as a means to overcome current challenges,” Lim said in a statement.

Tourism suffered major setbacks due to the travel bans and lockdowns imposed during the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Among those directly hit were members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that host 51 cultural heritage sites. 

Lim said communities around heritage sites where elephants and orangutans lived, such as Indonesia’s Gunung Leusur National Park in North Sumatra and Way Kambas National Park in Lampung province, were engaged in ecotourism. 

“With the IETM 2023, we hope to help jumpstart sustainable economic recovery in the (Asean) region with the promotion of a greener and biodiversity-conscious tourism industry, “ she said.

“These days, as the region slowly recovers from the impact of the global health crisis, we see opportunities for greater participation of local communities, empowerment of local cultures, and enhancement of windows for sustainability and continuity,” Lim added.

Active linkage with ACB will provide IETM participants with crucial information through expert resource speakers on best practices involving Asean Heritage Parks and protected sites. They will share their experiences on the pathway to recovery after a pandemic.

The ACB facilitates cooperation among Asean countries and Asean coordination with regional and international organizations to conserve biological diversity and ensure its sustainable use. Set up in 2005, it is also concerned with the equitable sharing of benefits arising from use of these natural treasures.

Experts, ecotourism practitioners, advocates, participants and exhibitors are expected at the IETM, which will provide a great opportunity to learn and network across cultures, said Takayama, IETM co-chair and AEN president.

AEN, which is the Asian initiative of the Global Ecotourism Network and based in Costa Rica, provides relevant opportunities for members to work together on a regional scale. It actively seeks out channels for growth opportunities with both small and large organizations within Asia and shares with members significant information and educational materials. The Philippines is an active AEN member.

AEN sees the IETM as a “celebration to make sure that beautiful nature is passed on to the next generations to enjoy.”

To register and for more information on IETM, log on to www.internationalecotourismtravelmart.com

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