Tourism Still Possible This Pandemic- Ecotourism Expert

Tourism can still be done during this pandemic, as long as health and safety protocols are observed, according to an ecotourism expert during the 6th webinar of the Living Dangerously Series of the School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB) last September 24, 2020. 

SESAM invited ecotourism expert and Forester Robert Cereno, Director of the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES), College of Forestry and Natural Resources-UPLB to talk about this timely issue, especially now that the economy is gradually opening for the new normal. 

For. Cereno is a UPLB Outstanding Alumnus Awardee in 2018 for Institutional Service for his outstanding contribution to the development and institutionalization of training and continuing education in forestry and natural resources; advocacy to promote ecotourism in the Philippines and for teaming up with national agencies, local government units and the private sector in developing and implementing innovative and sustainable tourism plans and programs.

In his presentation entitled “Ecotourism Beyond the Pandemic: Picnic after the Panic?” For. Cereno said tourism creates 5.71 million jobs, which is 13.5% of the total employment in the country. He added that tourism is essential to the economy, as it contributes 12.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation, amounting to PhP 2.48 trillion.

For. Cereno lamented that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected tourism worldwide, amounting to US$730 billion loss in tourism exports. “Tourism during the pandemic is hard-hit due to global travel restrictions, airline grounding and quarantine measures of different countries”, For. Cereno said.

Among the health and safety protocols he mentioned are wearing of facemask and face shield; promoting physical distancing in establishments and tourism sites; regular sanitation procedures are done; ensure clinics are established in tourism areas; and contact tracing is implemented by the local government. 

For. Cereno recommends domestic tourism and staycations to be first observed by Filipinos. He also mentioned to limit tourism in family-oriented travels, small-group tours and nature-friendly trips. The government, under the supervision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Covid-19 has put in place the guidelines for allowed tourism activities in Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) areas in the country. 

“You must do your homework first– research about the place, the quarantine rules and travel guidelines on how can you visit the area”, Forester Cereno stressed. He also reminded the participants to ‘decarbonize tourism’, such as avoiding the use of plastics and instead utilize reusable and recyclable materials, and natural and indigenous materials.

This webinar was organized by the Continuing Education and Training (CET) Division of SESAM, with technical support from the Information Technology Center (ITC-UPLB). More than 200 participants attended the webinar via Zoom and also streamed live via Facebook.

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