Fun Is Forever in the Philippines

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PANA Foundation Youth Congress 2018 gears up for promoting sustainable tourism in the country

By Paul Catiang


On November 17, this year’s Youth Congress will take place at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater at the Ateneo de Manila University in Diliman. For half a day, marketing students—future brand builders—will get firsthand exposure to experts and thought leaders selected to speak on the theme: responsible and sustainable tourism.


This year’s theme comes at an opportune time, when Philippine tourism has gotten increasingly popular with both local and foreign visitors.


Contrast this with the growing awareness and need for more sustainable practices in tourism. The 2018 Youth Congress seeks to discuss ways of promoting local tourist destinations and balancing these against maintaining ecological balance and keep tourism sustainable. The end goal is to create a widespread consciousness about responsible and sustainable tourism among the citizenry, government units, and tourists in general.


Forks in the Road

The Congress also recognizes the need to make tourism sustainable, and this is the behind all the topics up for discussion.


Keynote Speech: Tourism as Key to Progress

Keynote Speaker: Roby Alabado


Representing the Department of Tourism, Assistant Secretary Roby Alabado will cover tourism as a key to progress in the Philippines.


The country has all the right ingredients to become an ideal tourist destination: countless natural wonders, an English-speaking population, and the warm hospitality Filipinos are known for.


It’s easy to imagine how tourism can bring progress. In 2016, the industry contributed about Php 1.2 Billion to the Philippine GDP and the numbers continue to grow. In the same year, employment in tourism industries was estimated at 5.2 million, and share of employment in tourism was recorded at 12.8 percent.  


The challenge still lies in making it sustainable, to consider long-term benefits over short-term profit, which the keynote speech and all the discussion panels hope to address.


Topic: Tourism as a Catalyst for Positive Change

Speaker: Gina Lopez


Former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez will speak on the positive changes that tourism brings.


As an industry that makes up 10 percent of the world’s GDP, it contributes to global advancement through social inclusiveness, employment, and poverty reduction. Tourism contributes one in every eleven jobs globally and is the largest export category in many developing countries. It also encourages equality by having twice as many female employers as other sectors. Tourism also exposes travelers to different cultures, encouraging diversity and understanding across borders.


But tourism needs to give back to the host communities by encouraging responsible tourism through respecting the natural environment, supporting local economies, and preserving heritage and tradition. All this needs to be done through mobilizing all stakeholders to make tourism a catalyst for positive change.


Topic: Tourism with a Conscience

Speakers: Jako de Leon, Marc Nelson


Vlogger Jako de Leon and traveler and TV personality Marc Nelson will both speak on tourism with a conscience, focusing on how travelers can lessen the impact of their travels on the environment through simple practices. These can include avoiding disposable items, patronizing local establishments, participating in environmentally friendly activities, and disposing of trash properly. There’s an acknowledgment that some action can be taken on the individual level.


Topic: Cultural Traveler

Speakers: Ann Marie Cunanan, Spanky Enriquez


Participating in the experience economy means a fair number of DIY tours. Ann Marie Cunanan of Meaningful Travels PH will talk about traveler-led tourism. The discussion will revolve around the shift from tourists depending on travel agencies for their arrangements to taking the reins in their own hands. This relates to the previous topic, because it underscores the need to organize tours that minimize their effect on the environment and the destinations.


Meanwhile, food writer Spanky Enriquez will speak on food and travel. Experiencing the World Through Cuisine will tackle the possibilities of exploring the many regional cuisines that comprise Filipino food culture and the hospitality that comes with it.