Thursday, January 1, 2015

La Trinidad Tourism: "Where are we now, and where are we going"

The future is colorful for La Trinidad tourism J. After so many years, the municipality will finally adopt a tourism plan for 2015-2019 that will guide our legislators and implementers in making La Trinidad a distinct and exciting destination in the country (as an Agri-eco-cultural destination). Great credit goes to the DOT-CAR’s assistance, the participation of all the members of the Tourism Council from various sectors, and of course, the present administration’s relentless passion towards tourism investment and development.

What made us more proud, as one of those who participated in the tourism planning months ago, is the adoption of our group’s brand slogan which features our tourism brand essence for La Trinidad: “Valley of Colors” The slogan, initially drawn from our distinct tourism products of strawberries, cut flowers, coffee, and vegetables, finally serves as both inspiration, and challenge, not just to the town’s officials, but also to every soul in our community – how can we sustain such claim? How can we really make a “colorful” La Trinidad for our tourists? Can our town keep up with such kind of tourism promotion and marketing? Are our existing  infrastructures and accommodations ready for it?

If these thoughts cross you, then that is cheerfully the first step towards cultivating a tourism conscious community. Tourism consciousness is a culture treasured by communities who see tourism as a valuable opportunity for economic growth. Palawan and Sagada, for instance, have this culture; residents regulate themselves and maintain cleanliness and orderliness because they have a decent and holistic view of the tourism systems. “If I throw my waste here, our tourist spot will become dirty and no tourist will come anymore…it means my parents won’t have customers and they won’t be able to pay taxes that our government will use for projects that will help us” a 7 year old-child in Sagada answered when I inquired about their regular cleaning-activities.

For many urbanizing towns, this consciousness may slowly expire: “We don’t have to invest on tourism since we have schools, banks, and other establishments that can sustain our local economy” said a friend in one unforgiving debate, “trumapik lang ti turista”. Although he has a point, such naive outlook is not only backward, but also conceited – it only proves that we lack a tourism conscious culture. Tourism, the activity of travelling and staying in a certain place, is not only an economic phenomenon but also a social and cultural one. It involves most part of communities’ lives – can we imagine our place without a single visitor? What lasting impression do we want our tourists or visitors to have upon their visit to our town? What “experiences” do we want them to have from our place?

For a long time, La Trinidad, although it had successfully penetrated the market of tourism products, has yet to substantially invest in projects that will improve its destination-based tourism aspect. “It’s all in the pipe…the tourism plan is the start...” our Mayor Tabanda assured me. I sincerely believe her.

Partnerships, unity and cooperation are the keys. We need a united and collective consciousness that puts the community first before any other interests. Nothing can go wrong when everyone dreams the same thing, when we all want to go in the same direction…when we all want to be living in a Valley of colors - alive with peaceful and loving diversity, thriving in vibrant cultures, and imbued with dynamism and environmental consciousness.

Others, perhaps, are initiative and volunteerism. In most developed countries, most events-based tourism (and even destination-based) are initiated and developed by the private sector( like Macy’s parade of New York by the privately owned store-chain). Or even as practiced locally, the private sector (like the academe, business people etc.) support for the tourism industry of Baguio City; UC, for instance, donated millions-worth Burnham master plan as a gift to the city and the people of Baguio, and SLU initiates the city’s Lantern Parade, something that boosts the city tourism’s year of events, business people organized themselves (like the HRAB) for better tourism services. Even in my visits to other provinces with successful tourism values, it is the private sector which develops (even donates) parks and attractions for the community's and tourists' enjoyable experience.

In La Trinidad? Hmmmm. We have a lot of work to do. Perhaps all sectors must finally set aside pretexts in community development (including its tourism aspect), to really propel our town to better heights. As i-La Trinidad people who have stake in our own town’s tourism industry, the ball is now in our hands in a dying second to make a goal. With everyone's support, I really believe that we can score on this one. J

(The Tourism Plan Presentation will be posted soon. Happy New Year to all :)

In my past work, I have learned to become abreast with the legislative developments of our town just in case I ever need to be professionally prepared. Hence, I have known of the 2011 Municipal Tourism Officer Ordinance years ago even before its posting last year. In preparation for it, I have been acquiring significant trainings and eligibilities which include Diploma in Tourism Studies, and NC-II Tour Guiding Services, among others, although the ordinance specifically includes Bachelor of Laws, and Communication courses among the qualifying degrees (which is already in my line).

Contrary to some opinions, my decision came, not from a spur of a moment, but of months and nights of mental anguish in decision-making. What are the chances? What if the appointing power did not like me? What if the hiring was postponed? What if I have taken the job opportunity abroad? Sometimes, ‘fate’ or destiny (and even accident) is a combination of many things; preparation,insane luck,perfect timing, choice, and guts. Hopefully, this new year, our proposals, planning, and actions will assist our tourism status to greater grounds. (Scary..Wish us luck nyayy!!J)