Trisha Andres (Condé Nast Traveller)
MANILA, Philippines — Farm tourism will open up new perspectives for inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development and will revitalize the farm tourism sector as a sunrise industry in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
Gil Saguiguit Jr., director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca), said agriculture tourism diversifies income for small farmers while promoting sustainable agricultural systems and community involvement.
He added that Sen. Cynthia Villar is pushing for the passage of the Farm Tourism Development Act which will effectively institutionalize the government’s farm tourism programs in helping raise farmers’ incomes and increase players in the rural tourism industry.
Farm tourism mainstreamed in 2012 starting with the Costales Nature Farm in Laguna. The country now has more than 100 accredited establishments nationwide, majority of which are located in Luzon.
It is under the umbrella of nature tourism that holds around 20 to 30 percent of the overall tourism market in the country.
Searca opened this week a five-day exposure workshop on farm tourism practices designed for different stakeholders to learn and adopt trends in farm tourism across Southeast Asia.
It received participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam – plus Taiwan represented by a resource person.
The workshop also showcases agriculture as a productive business endeavor and an exciting field of study among young people.
“These initiatives will place agriculture and the exciting prospects it has to offer centerstage. This is towards greater appreciation of agriculture not just for the youth in their career choices, but also for other important sectors and the general public,” he said.
The workshop is in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) which SEARCA has tapped as knowledge partners.
“These two institutions have been very busy making great progress in advancing farm tourism in the Philippines, along with partner agencies like the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry, with the active engagement of farm tourism operators,” Saguiguit said.
In 2012, SEARCA spearheaded the First Philippine National Agritourism Research Conference that aimed to identify research gaps and policies that can help develop agritourism in the country.
The exposure-workshop features presentations led by ISST president and former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, on global and regional trends in farm tourism, followed by presentations by experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, DOT, Maejo University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, various leaders and chief executive officers in farm tourism practice in the Philippines and in Thailand, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, and agriculture consultants.