World’s first  ecotourism travel mart produces harvest of actions, support, know-how

An array of results such as a signed declaration to push authentic ecotourism through effective yet ethical marketing and promotion, intensive learning on the fundamentals  of ecotourism, the awarding of Asian ecotourism champions, and business-to-business engagements at the the travel mart, all these marked the completion of the world’s first green travel mart.

Held in Silang, Cavite last March 29 to April 2, 2023, the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM) showed how collaboration and commitment push ecotourism to its rightful place as prime mover for the kind of tourism that nurtures the environment and uplifts communities hosting the sites.

The IETM was presented by the Asian Ecotourism Network with the Department of Tourism and organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism. 

The Philippines marked history when 25 nations networked, shared learnings and resources, engaged, and discovered more during the multi-faceted IETM and Festival.

In rites opening the IETM, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco stated that “tourism can no longer just be about the numbers or quantity but rather quality”. For this reason, she said, events such as the IETM that highlights the importance of sustainability are a gift to the Philippines and the world. 

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista presented transport innovations planned with sustainability in mind. Transport is an essential part of tourism, and these sectors can make substantial contributions to sustainability with its relentless pursuit, he said.

Dr. Mina Gabor, former tourism secretary who is chair and president of the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST),  informed the gathering of guests, diplomats, local officials, government heads, exhibitors, participants, and students  of  sustained initiatives of the AEN and ISST in mounting the IETM before and during the pandemic, leading to this opening. 

The ISST, with its lush green grounds, was the venue for the IETM which carried the theme : Embracing Authentic Ecotourism.

Dr. Mundita Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, shared the gains of the ACB in regional cooperation and  outlined the relevance of  the IETM in  pushing  the environment and tourism sectors in jointly shaping responsible business for a healthier planet. 

Dr. Glenn Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), cited the importance of upholding community empowerment to attain success in ecotourism.

Wanvipa Phanumat, director of the Thailand-based Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration, shared DASTA’s successes in community-based ecotourism  development. 

Masaru Takayama, chair of the Asian Ecotourism Network, introduced the AEN to the assembly. “AEN sees the IETM as a great opportunity for cross-learning, networking, and a celebration of ecotourism to ensure the beautiful nature and our culture that is inseparable from nature, will be handed over to our next generations,” he said in an earlier message.

Mayor Alston Kevin Anarna of Silang, Cavite beamed his municipality’s pride and honor as site of the historic international event. He said Silang’s thrust to be widely known as a Botanical Garden south of Metro Manila, and so near Tagaytay would be boosted by this and by the learnings of Silang local executives in the forum. He turned over the symbolic key to Silang to the AEN, headed by Takayama, and the AEN Board.

Secretary Frasco later banged the ceremonial gong  in the presence of Miss Earth 2022 Mina Sue Choi ,  Miss Indonesia Earth Karina Basrewan, Miss Philippines Earth Jenny Ramp who were guests of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, one of the IETM co-hosts.

Other co-hosts were the Municipality of Silang, Department of Trade and Industry, 

PhilExport, Tourism Promotions Board, SEARCA, and Philippine Airlines as official airline.

MULTI-FACETED IETM

 At its Market Place, the Department of Trade and Industry’s One Town One Product program (OTOP) was highlighted together with its initiatives in spurring SME growth through its Negosyo Center.  Exhibitors, including those designated by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, showcased eco-products, while other regions showcased their ware. 

Some 300 Ecotourism Forum participants from Asia had two full days of learning on ecotourism from experts from all over the world. DOT Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso started the series on DOT thrusts on sustainability while Dr. Gabor capped it with the topic of forming viable tour packages. 

The IETM participants joined in the pledge embodied in the Silang, Cavite Declaration on Ecotourism Marketing and Promotion which called for its adoption in Asia Pacific countries.

The commitment includes showing respect to communities including indigenous peoples in the context agreed upon by the communities;  respecting and valuing contemporary and traditional culture, including tangible and intangible heritage.

The declaration also covered the use  of materials produced locally and in a sustainable manner; the conduct of ecotourism promotion and marketing activities in ways that minimize greenhouse emissions.

It also set the guide to maximize local benefits while providing positive visitor experiences during visits to historically and culturally sensitive sites.

Winners of the AEN International Ecotourism Awards were also announced. Among them were national tourism organizations, accommodation establishments, and NGOs from Taiwan, Malaysia, Jordan, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Cited were exemplars in complying with AEN Ecotourism Standard for Accommodations and Destinations which are recognized by the Global Sustainable  Tourism Council. Philippine awardees were the Ten Knots Group which garnered the Biodiversity Conservation Award  and Ecotourism Promotions Award, and the Lio Tourism Estate in Palawan which got the Waste Management Award.

 The categories include Destination Governance, Sustainable Building, Community Benefit, Climate Action, Biodiversity Conservation, Waste Management, Ecotourism Promotion, Environment Leadership, Innovative Ecotourism, and Community Champions.

 Other officials  present at the awarding ceremony were Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Maria Margarita Nograles, Oscar Barrera, Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. trustee, and DOT Assistant Secretary Maria Rica Bueno.

Singkaban, the decorated bamboo arch, provided a festive and authentic Filipino welcome to the IETM’s average of a thousand daily visitors and attendees. A separate signing of a memorandum of agreement for student training on ecotourism was held between the University of the East, represented by Dr. Zosimo M. Battad, UE president and chief academic officer and the Taiwan Ecotourism Association, represented by its president Yuri Guo. Witnessing the signing was Dr. Gabor.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity featured various ASEAN Heritage Parks in its pavilion.  Also invited to present artworks on nature was Samantha Kaspar a multi-talented Filipino Swiss artist who was diagnosed with autism at an early age. 

Associations which came to IETM included the Thailand Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association, Japan Alliance of Responsible Travel Agencies, Taiwan Ecotourism Association, and the Jeju Ecotourism Association and Changwon Junam. The Travel Mart also featured the  Philippine Airlines, official airline of IETM while Toyota displayed hybrid cars in the green technology area.

A Butterfly Garden with hundreds of species, and “Fishalan” of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, which featured aquaponics, were among family treats for learning at the IETM which also saw the participation of the Department of Science and Technology.

Cultural presentations made IETM more memorable and meaningful. Silang’s Salinlahi and Serenata Singers, Bacoor marching band, Himig Batingaw Choir of Imus were among presenters. Traditional weaving demonstrations were also activities at the booths.

ABOUT THE AEN and OTHER SPONSORS, PARTNERS

Asian Ecotourism Network is a regional initiative of the Global Ecotourism Network. It provides more hands-on connections and relevant opportunities for members working together at a regional scale.

Other IETM sponsors are :

Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Science and Technology, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Retirement Authority, City of Bacoor, Asian Development Bank, Philippine Veterans Bank, Toyota, Ford, Newport World Hotel, Adventure Travel Trade Association, and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction.

Media Partners are Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin. Hotel Partners are The Park, PHIL OASIS, Star View, Hotel Kimberly,BRIZO, Bella Rosa Gardens, Farm Hills.

The IETM website is www.internationalecotourismtravelmart.com

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