Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tourism Security and Safety Conference in Davao City

SMX, Lanang, Davao City (August 23-25, 2016)

1.       Establishing Security and Emergency Response Department
2.      International Terrorism
3.      Landmark cases on Tourism Security
4.      Hotel and Travel: Inseparable with Tourism
5.      Linking HR and Security and Safety Risks
6.      Events: Security Preparedness
7.      Policies in Tourism Security
8.      National Tourism Situationer

Day 1: National Tourism Situationer and the Tourism Systems as a whole

“We look at our structures (including own buildings) as a tourism spot - airlines not as aviation centers but as an attraction…security guards as tourism officers” explained Mr. Sigfried Mison, the guest speaker of our convention. Mr. Mison further explained that; in a system where we have a government that do not understand tourism, and tourism people who do not understand the government, the marriage between their orientation and thinking is the only way to make sure that tourism will thrive.

 The tourism industry, which involves many aspects, contributes to ten per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. In the Philippines, it is responsible for 8.2% of our GDP and it involves one out of eleven people in the entire country. It is a people’s business. As such, there is a need to protect the industry from external and internal factors; terrorism, criminality, under-investment on businesses’ security, health risks, and other threats.
“Speak well about our Country” encouraged Ambassador Marciano Paynor, who hinted that Filipinos are the first to speak against our tourism marketing and promotions. “When we speak bad things about our country, we most likely deprive economic opportunities for our people..” he explained.

Day 2: Tourism Security and Safety (Special Topic: Event’s Safety)

In the present National Tourism Situationer, the Philippines ranked 128th out of 141 countries as to tourism safety and security. The indicators include reliability of tourism services, peace and order, and the state of stability and well-being of the receiving community. This begs the question:"Is our home safe for visitors?". All speakers highlighted that even without marketing and promotions, "Safety sells in tourism". This means that visitors, in addition to feeling a sense of community, must also have a sense of comfort and safety. This, without a question, involves the effort of all. As exhibit "A". the conveners presented the Davao Public Safety Center set-up (including the 911 system), and other systems used by tourism stakeholders to promote a culture of safety for tourists. 


In Tourism Security Operations, they classify the asset as either “natural attraction” or “man-made attraction”. Because “natural attractions” can easily be secured, the speaker focused on man-made attractions, which includes the ever popular “Special Events”.

Important definitions: 

  1. Situation • a condition or combination of conditions that exist at a particular time
  2. Security Situation • is a situation that is or may be potentially a security threat event or incident
  3. Security • the state of being free from danger or threat
  4. Incident • a security event or occurrence
  5. Emergency • a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action (potential for loss of life or great damage)
  6. Disaster • a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life
 Special Events under “Events Tourism” includes Festivals, Parties, Conferences, Summits, Exhibitions, Fairs, Meetings, Games and Sports, Religious activities and other events which draws people. These involve high-level of operations since they come with many risks and threats. Although such events only last for a short duration, they nevertheless involve long and careful planning.

Special Events management must always ensure effective preparation. That is why organizers should always consider the following areas: Administration, Design, Marketing, Operations, and Risk management (ADMOR).

Events are planned disasters that is why there should be “Command Centers” to monitor the whole activity, and Security Plans. Events and Tourism Security all comes with a cost (for peace of mind). We should weigh public safety versus public sentiment. In the end, lives are more important than criticism.

The third Day of the Conference is a city tour where I got the impression that the best security multiplier is a town with a sense of community. People who look after their own neighborhood is an effective deterrent to criminality and other threats to tourism.

Daghang Salamat Davao!

(A week after the Security and Safety Conference, a terrorist bombing happened there days ago. It  was unbelievable in so many levels - like a foreshadowing of a future event. But that is what terrorists do, they strike the heart of the current efforts of security and safety. Let us be vigilant and unite against people who are bent on destroying our country and all the lives in it.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Hagimit Falls

If you are in Davao City and you have six hours to spare, go visit the Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Hagimit Falls while having a view of the island life. Just take a taxi to Sasa Port and ride a ferry (only P10.00 pesos) to the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACLOS). The distance is only 15 minutes from the Davao city main land. The boat trip is also scheduled in an almost every 30-minutes interval so you are assured that you can get back immediately to your hotel in a moment's notice (if you don't want to stay overnight in the island).

At the Samal Port, haggle with the tricycle drivers there for a good price. The city tour which includes the Monfort Bat Sanctuary, and Hagimit Falls usually takes about P 800 to P 1,200 transportation cost, depending on the arrangement. 

The Monfort Bat Sanctuary

Batman fans like me would like to see the "Bat Cave" of Samal which is a home to about 2.5 million fruit bats. The site is recognized by the Guiness book of world records as the largest single colony of its kind. 

Upon arrival, we could already hear the screeching sounds of the night creatures. There is a P 100.00 entrance fee which includes the services of the most friendly tour guides I've ever met. Here are some pictures of the place:

"Without bats...there will be no Durian.." stressed our kind tour guide. She lectured about the big role of bats in the balance of the ecosystem in the region, as well as its role as night pollinators and farmer's allies in controlling pests. The tour was enlightening. After the experience, you will see bats in a much different light. They are our friends.
Hagimit Falls

About thirty to forty five minutes ride from the sanctuary, the majestic Hagimit Falls is an oasis to the tired traveler. You just have to pay Forty-pesos for entrance fee, a One hundred fifty fee for a shed, and a Five-peso environmental Fee. The cool and fresh waters from the mountain springs? Priceless.

After dipping in the nice waters. Just tell manong pedicap driver to take you to the the best views in town before going to the sea port. Just have a feel of the island life.

Inhale all the experiences with gratitude, and proceed to the seaport back to your Davao City hotel..:) Salamat Kaayo Samal!

Related Article: Tourism Security and Safety Conference in Davao City

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Malaysia: Truly Asia

I’m writing my experience after a couple of months. There were (un)expected misfortunes which hauled me to some needless heartbreak – I just have to run away from it all. I am a firm believer that things happen either for or because of something. Such ribbing philosophy which is both hopeful and humiliating is naturally, human, I must accept. "That is life!", as people would say.

We landed at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at dawn, eager to flag a taxi to our hotel. Outside, I didn’t feel away from home, and  except for the Malay signages; the environment, the feel if you may, even the vegetation around is no different than Davao City, or even the nearby Ilocos towns. Hell, even the people there looks like us.

We checked-in at Likas hotel and proceeded to Likas Bay – a cove featuring a park that will put Manila bay to the depths of shame; it has health and wellness facilities, children’s park, and recreational areas, all open to the public. The city area reminded me of Singapore, though not as clean, but, because of its sound urban management, great zoning compliance, and decent housing, I can see it as an extension of Lakeside, SG.
Likas Bay at 6:00 in the morning 
The next day, we had a city tour starting from its famous bay KK City Waterfront which is even more energetic at night, and the the KK City Mosque and surrounding temples, the University of Malaysia (Sabah), Atkinson’s Tower and Signal Hill,  and the Sabah Museum which wrapped up the day for me.

Many of us (Igorots including) might not consider that we are not 'that' unique as a people...perhaps, until we learn about things we share with our neighbors. For example, the Malay word for "road" or "path" is called "jalan", similar to our "shalan" (ibaloi), or "dalan" (Ilocano), or "danan" (Kankana-ey)or "daan"(Filipino)...I can go on and on about the similarities of our language as Austronesian people, but maybe a little visual evidence may convince us (below): he is not from the Ifontoc tribe, he is actually from a head-hunting tribe in historical Malaysia. Karkarupan ikit tako inya? jeje. And the wooden plank they use to display/offer the hunted heads? They call it "atang".

The next day, we proceeded to Jesselton point to rent a boat to Manukan and Mamutik islands. A boat owner instantly recognized us as Filipinos and offered discounted prices for their water sports. At Mamutik island, we met Jessie, a water sport coordinator, who also introduced himself as a Filipino. I’m beginning to believe that 25% of the population in Sabah is composed of Filipinos (most from Mindanao who have escaped the decades of conflict) as claimed by a Filipino vendor at Gaya Street.

The Water sports are as good as those in our islands!

Terimah Kasih KK, Malaysia!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vigan City Convention on Cooperatives and Tourism

“Expanding Tourism in the Cooperative Sector”

Tourism-oriented City

From the onset, the delegates have observed the tourism investments of Vigan, especially in its quest to being the prime destination of the North, and recently, one of the “Seven wonder cities of the world”. The congress venue, for instance, which is one of the best convention centers in the country was constructed by virtue of hard-earned local government loans directed to establishing Vigan City as a “must experience” destination in Asia. It is an investment which caters to tourists and supports the tourist accommodation establishments and tourism servers of Vigan City.
At the Beautiful Vigan Convention Center
Just like other LGUs which are heavily dependent on Tourism, Vigan City has completed all the strategic requirements of Department of Tourism for quality tourism services which include; infrastructure development, signage, directional maps, tourist information and assistance centers, police assistance near core tourism sites, subsidized cultural performers projects, customer service trainings on tourist servers, and clean comfort rooms/ toilets.

The National Tourism Directions

The national tourism development plan was discussed and highlighted by the DOT Regional Director for Region 1 and other guests from DOT.

Tourism is acknowledged as the fastest growing industry in the Philippines. Its direct and indirect economic benefits has put Tourism as a sustainable economic activity. In fact for the past five months this year, tourism attracted 4.27 million tourists which garnered around 93 billion income, or about 11% of the national economy.

Such national importance of tourism have set the following tourism directions especially to LGUs in tourism development; Improve market access and connectivity, Develop and market competitive tourism experience, products, and destination, and Improve institutional, governance, and human resource capacities.

The following infrastructure improvements were discussed by TIEZA who reiterates their agencies’ mandate to assist LGUs infrastructure development. TIEZA, can accommodate proposed tourism infrastructure projects for 1st class municipalities who are willing to shoulder a 60% counterpart.

Tourism Challenges by LGUs

At the captivating Calle Crisologo, Vigan City
Vigan proudly holds the banner of adhering the national tourism banner of “To become the “must experience” destination in Asia”. They succeeded – from their tourism goods of Vigan bagnet, longganisa, empanada, and other Ilokano kakanins, to their implementing mechanisms of building or maintaining a heritage city.

However, just like any LGU, the local government also admitted challenges when they started their campaign of making Vigan a must experience site. They identified Lack of Infrastructure Support and Information/Mechanism to assist/control tourists as primary issues in their development quest.

The representatives from the DILG admitted that there are more roles for Local Governments who are at the forefront of all economic activities, the national government remains only as a support cast.
For the city of Vigan – LGU they have constantly considered the effect of tourism on the community.  “Tourism is not just earning pesos…it must have conscience. It must consider the impact to public health, the environment and the whole community. Local Government should see to it that these are considered.”

Cooperatives on Tourism

“It takes the whole community to develop a sustainable tourism practice”
Cooperatives pride itself as the backbone of local economy. Businesses which are owned not just by sole proprietorship, but of communities have improved the lives of many people. 

In Vigan, cooperatives have organized themselves brilliantly and have invested in tourism related businesses. The primary organization, Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives, have partnered with the LGU and community and built hotels, a school, a bath and coffee center, a convention center, and an industrial zone. Such feat can only be achieved by tourism-oriented and visionary community cooperatives.

As a constant exercise, cooperatives in the city are encouraged to enhance their capacities in engaging into tourism businesses. Primarily, cooperatives are trained in the following areas:
1.    Product and Destination Development
2.    Tourism Marketing and Promotion

Cooperative Advantage in Tourism Businesses

The 1st Tourism cluster convention is themed with the reigning trend that tourism-related businesses are the priority areas for investments.
The speakers outlined four reasons why cooperatives should invest or engage in tourism-related businesses.
1.    Exempted from Business Taxes
2.    Helps communities – no monopoly of income, ownership of business, easy marketing (people to people)
3.    Cooperatives have Linkages
4.    It serves the community – They have the Community Development Fund (Mandatory)

A number of cooperatives with tourism related businesses like Tam-an Banaue Coop and Paglaum MPC have testified that in a community wherein tourism is a significant industry, or even even when it only has the potential for it, tourism is the only way to improve lives.
Tourists can enjoy a dancing fountain treat every night at the Vigan public park
Promotion of Tourism Investment

In the lectures and sharing, we finally understood that there is only one formula to tourism progress: “Love”.

“LOVE  is the Formula for Sustainable Tourism”
·         Leadership – LGU and Community leadership/shared Leadership
·         Open Business Environment – We need to align support/ policy based on assessment and not assumption.
·         Vision – Do Not stop innovating. We do not stop Cultivating new approaches.
·         Enable and Empower People – Love for the community. Pride for the Place Spirit.
(e.g.: “I am from the Strawberry Capital! I will protect Strawberries and Strawberry farms”)

As they say; “Tourism is like fire; it can cook your food with it, or it can burn your house”

The key is, always, balance.