Being A Mindful Traveler And A Responsible Local Is The Key To Achieving Sustainable Tourism
More people, indeed are traveling. In this day and age, it’s not just the millennials who are looking to go out and explore the world, but everyone from every demographic and from every walk of life is looking to take a part and experience the joy that traveling affords them.
And the hospitality and travel industry knows that with the demand for tourism going up, so will the demand for accommodations and establishments.
According to industry estimates, at least 100 hotels will be completed from 2018 to 2021—and 50 percent of these hotels will be rising in the extended Manila area.
These statistics come from Cyndy Tan Jarabata, the president of Tajara Leisure and Hospitality Group, a company that specializes in planning, development, and management of successful hotel, leisure, and mixed-use residential properties in the Philippines. And according to her, it’s really the way that people are living now that’s driving this demand for travel and establishments.
“We’ve changed the way we work, we’ve changed the way we socialize, we’ve change the way we live our lives. So it’s a new lifestyle,” Cyndy shares as we catch up with her at the Asia CEO Tourism Forum, which was held at Manila Marriott Hotel on June 19. She adds, taking note of the rising spending power of people vis-à-vis the dropping costs of travel, “We look at money now, strong middle market, and this is quite important in terms of the travel industry. And it has something to do also when it comes to budget airlines, so it has gotten a lot of Filipinos to travel.”
But with tourism and travel in the Philippines bigger than ever, so are the challenges and the threats that come with this emerging industry. Thus, the need for ecotourism and sustainable tourism is rising, and the need for people to start living responsibly to make this happen.
The closure of Boracay is just one of the many consequences of irresponsible travel and tourism—and the fault lies both on the foreign and local tourists coming to the area, and on the local establishments and residents that have been living the unsustainable life for years. As Boracay closes, more people are now being opened to the fact that the need to change the way we travel and keep our communities is real—lest we risk destroying our homes.
And the tourism and travel industry is on their toes, on guard on what their next step is towards achieving this more sustainable way of running things. What’s left to do now is to figure out that it’s not just the government or the industry’s responsibility to make this happen—it’s our responsibility as well.
It has been 10 years since Cyndy started Tajara Leisure, and in her years of working in the hospitality industry for local and international brands, one thing she has come to realize is that sustainability is a real issue that needs to be addressed by everyone.
“It has to be a concerted effort; it’s not just the LGUs responsibility. It’s our responsibility, the stakeholders’ responsibility, the estate planners. It’s everyone’s responsibility,” Cyndy says about changing the way we live as the key to forwarding sustainable tourism. “We really need to push everyone in terms of being conscious about it. I always believe that no matter how much we practice it in the hotel, but if every employee is not practicing it, they don’t bring it back home. You need to practice it at home. If you keep your areas clean, the tourists follow. If you see the locals not minding their surroundings, it follows. It has to start with us.”
And this plight has been in the pipeline for years. As early as 1999, the Department of Tourism has established guidelines on ecotourism development. In 2010, this has been further highlighted and encouraged by RA 9593, which is also known as the Tourism Act, that seeks to “recognize sustainable tourism development as integral to the national socioeconomic development…and promote a tourism industry that is ecologically sustainable, responsible, participatory, culturally sensitive, economically viable, and ethically and socially equitable for local communities.”
But all of that has stayed on paper. This is why Boracay has suffered, and why Palawan is now on guard and making sure they don’t end up with the same fate.
This is also why a lot is riding on new DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, who has expressed early on that she is planning to bring her expertise in farm tourism and ecotourism to bringing sustainable approaches to rural and tourism development.
The need for change
Cyndy also shares another key to help move the industry forward and grow: industry disruptors. These industry disruptors are new phenomena, new products that are entering the market, new policies, new decision-makers that will change the way traditional things are working. And for her, these disruptors will be the key for key aspects in the industry to change—for the better, hopefully.
“I like the disruptors because they challenge us,” Cyndy says. “You need to embrace it. It disrupts market because there’s something wrong with what’s going on. The government, the entrance of Grab and Uber, and Airbnb—they all came about primarily because of unmet needs.”
Airbnb has been a particularly interesting disruptor especially in the international tourism industry as of late because of the way it has driven local property prices and rents, forcing locals in key tourist areas out of their homes.
But Cyndy explains that these phenomena are part of what needs to happen for things to change and improve. “When you look at Airbnb, Airbnb answers travelers’ needs in terms of being part of community, being part of the local lifestyle—which a lot of hotels don’t offer. That’s why a lot of hotels now are changing the way they design their spaces, changing the way the attitude of staff are welcoming guests. It’s providing the experience, that local community feel, which the travelers want now. We don’t want the traditional way kind of things. It’s about accepting and embracing the disruptors because it benefits us—competition is good!”
Eventually, as the market and the industry adapt to these unmet needs and changes, then will things stabilize to create a better system and process.
It all boils down to adapting and changing—and that’s exactly what the tourism industry, and we as individuals, to do right now.