HERITAGE tourism can bring much-needed tourism money to the country, but it is not getting the respect it deserves from government and the private sector.
In a recent lecture on Revenge Tourism by the Liveable Cities Challenge PH, Ortigas Foundation Library Historian John Silva said, “Heritage tourism attracts wealthy tourists. The sites we visited were historical, architectural and urban. Speaking from his experience as a tour guide in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, he noted that these tours appealed to the middle class, CEOs, wealthy informal groups of women, the diplomatic corps or those who had a special interest like art deco in Asia.
He added: “We stayed in five-star hotels, were driven in limousines or sometimes transported in helicopters and private planes. These guests were wealthy, well educated and wanted to know more about Asia and its different facets…. It was a big job because these guests were not passive people. They asked a lot of questions, but in the end a high fee is charged, and [gave] generous tips. It was well worth it. »
Although there are no Philippine statistics on the benefits of heritage tourism, in the United States, heritage tourism brings in some $171 billion annually, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In fact, 81% of American tourists are considered “cultural tourists”.
Second fiddle to the sun and the beach
However, Silva noted, “In our country, heritage tourism doesn’t have that kind of seriousness that other parts of our country are promoted, namely beaches and shopping malls. Heritage homes, buildings, walking tours of the city’s old quarters, monument tours, museums, culinary and other events that focus on the appreciation of history and solidify our national identity play a bit of a second fiddle to what appears to be the overall sun sand and mall master plan, which is a current reflection of who we are.
He noted that in his travels to other parts of Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Bangkok and Luang Prabang in Laos, or “to any town or city in Southeast Asia, where there is a lively heritage tourism plan”, their own citizens are very impatient. to arrange personal or business tours of the historical significance and beauty of these sites.
In the Philippines, Silva mentioned that Bataan death march markers are often vandalized or destroyed, and cites the demolition of the art deco Jai Alai building built in 1939, as examples of government neglect and lack of “duty awareness”. heritage” among Filipinos in general.
“Training is not easy”
He urged the government and the private sector to look into the prospects and financial benefits of heritage tourism and provide more support in the region. He added that heritage tourism must receive an increase in marketing funds. “This must not diminish, the cash cow that is Boracay, El Nido, Bohol and other beach experiences. However, visits to monuments, historic sites, heritage homes and buildings, indigenous enclaves and ethnicities, gardens and estates, and all the elements that amplify our rich past, could benefit from such an increase in distribution.
Silva, a former National Museum consultant, admitted that the task is not easy as the training of heritage tour guides alone is more demanding in terms of language proficiency, demeanor, as well as skills capable of anticipating the needs of these well-educated, wealthy tourists.
In the Ministry of Tourism’s National Tourism Development Plan for 2016-2022, it advocates the promotion of cultural tourism, which includes visits to heritage houses and historical sites.
Apart from Spanish-era heritage buildings and churches, the Philippines is also home to six Unesco World Heritage Sites such as Baroque Churches (San Agustin in Intramuros, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, Miag -ao to Iloilo), as well as the Tubbataha Reef National Park, Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park, and Cordilleran Rice Terraces.