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.