Sustainable Tourism is More Fun in the Philippines at the 19th PANAF Youth Congress

Young Filipinos today have a new definition of “fun” when traveling. Their travel checklists now include reusable water bottles, metal straws, and eco-friendly sunscreen. With the environment as their top advocacy, making these mindful choices has become a part of the Filipino millennial lifestyle. No other generation can promote sustainable tourism better than today’s young Pinoys.

The Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA) highlighted sustainable tourism at the 9th PANA Foundation (PANAF) Youth Congress. With the theme, “Fun is Forever in the Philippines,” the event highlighted the creativity and passion for the environment shared by young marketing practitioners from different universities all over the country.

“You are the generation who is inheriting an environment that the past generations have neglected. I think you, young people, are the hope of tourism. You will be the ones who will be championing the cause of sustainable tourism,” said Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary Roberto Alabado who addressed the participants all the way from Dubai through a video message.

The Philippines is at the center of the world’s marine biodiversity. Our islands have the highest concentration of animal and plant species unique to an area compared to any other country on the planet. Our pristine beaches, delectable local cuisine, and friendly locals rank us as one of the best tropical destinations in the world. But the Philippines is also considered a biodiversity hotspot—meaning it is an area in danger of overexploitation, land degradation, and pollution.

In 2017, the country welcomed around six million tourists. Popular tourist destinations like Boracay, El Nido, and Siargao started to experience the stresses caused by the influx of people. If not managed properly, this PHP 1.9 billion tourism industry might do more harm than good to our islands.


The PANAF Youth Congress, hosted by Umagang Kay Ganda host Gretchen Ho, featured some of the country’s thought leaders in sustainable tourism and marketing such as Gina Lopez, former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Marc Nelson, television host and World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) ambassador; Jako de Leon, digital media content producer; Ann Marie Cunanan, founder of Meaningful Travels PH; and Spanky Enriquez, culinary enthusiast and journalist.

“The main thrust of economic growth is area development,” Lopez said. In her experience, Investing in sustainable tourism has proven to be effective in communities that she helped through monetary investments, training, and infrastructure development. “It’s not the money that makes the difference. It’s the heart,” she explained.

Once the infrastructure and the community are in place, the next step is to promote sustainable tourism. “As advertisers, use your craft to promote conservation and responsible tourism. Highlight the good and call out the bad,” said Nelson.

There are also alternative ways to ensure that tourists do not cause harm to the environment. Cunanan talked about her venture, Meaningful Travels PH, and how she is able to bring people to Philippine travel destinations and teaching them how to respect local communities and their environment. Enriquez, on the other hand, uses online media to bring local Filipino cuisine to the world culinary stage.

Participants were empowered and equipped with tools and knowledge that can help them confidently promote sustainable tourism in their homes, their local communities, across the country, and even around the world.

“We are now aware of the country’s need for tourism that is progressive, responsible, and sustainable. If we change ourselves, the world follows,” said Al Christian Lazo, fourth year Marketing Management student from San Beda University.

The PANAF Youth Congress was held at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater at the Ateneo de Manila University campus last November 17, 2018.