Driven by a vision towards sustainability, the Department of Tourism (DOT) launches a bayanihan movement called “Save Our Spots (SOS)” to instill a culture of responsible tourism and to involve more people to act for the welfare of our domestic tourism industry.
“This movement calls for each individual to do their part in acting as a responsible tourist and encouraging the same behavior towards their peers,” DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said. “Sustainable tourism as a whole may seem like an ambitious venture but every small contribution will go a long way to collectively benefit the country’s tourism status, precious destinations, and valued lives.”
SOS is part of DOT’s overarching campaign for sustainability, called “More Fun Forever”, which aims to inspire tourists, businesses and local communities to have a long-term view on tourism by protecting destinations and our natural resources. The campaign seeks to impart sustainable tourism concepts by providing a more holistic view of the tourism industry to all stakeholders. This includes (1) the local community, by providing livelihood opportunities from tourism development, (2) the businesses, by making sure they adhere to environmental and quality standards while tapping the products and services of the local community, and (3) the tourists, by ensuring that they enjoy our tourism destinations responsibly.
The “Save Our Spots” movement supports the 3rd concept, with its primary goal being to educate tourists on how to be better travelers. The DOT will rollout various multimedia materials that will be showcased in strategic travel touchpoints such as airports, sea ports, vessels, and tourist accommodations to name a few. The department will also inculcate these when training front-liners and tour operators with the objective of developing a habit to take care of the country’s tourist destinations.
Benefiting tourist spots and Filipinos
By positively acting on these issues now, the country will be able to sustain its tourism growth for years to come and become a strong economic contributor to the total growth of the country. In 2018, tourism revenue was up by 14.3% from previous year and contributed 12.7% to the country’s GDP. Tourism has also provided income and livelihood to thousands of Filipinos.
The Philippines is blessed with world-renowned natural wonders such as Boracay, Palawan, Siargao, and Vigan, named as some of the best tourist destinations in the world by numerous travel publications. These tourist spots have always been recognized for their beautiful beaches, interesting island activities, cultural heritage, and people, which are primary reasons why both local and foreign tourists keep coming back to the Philippines and explore more places in the country’s 7,641 islands.
CNN recently recognized Vigan, as one of the most picturesque towns in Asia. Boracay is, once again, back in the top spot as Asia’s Best Island for 2019, according to Condé Nast Traveler (CNT) while Cebu and Palawan have taken second and fourth place, respectively.
The Philippines ranked 8th on the 20 Most Favorite Countries in the World of the CNT Readers’ Choice Awards, where the Philippines earned a 90.63 score among the 600,000 readers of the New York-based travel magazine. Palawan won second place for Travel+Leisure’s “15 Best Islands in the World” for the year in 2019.
The Philippines was also hailed as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination by the prestigious 2019 World Travel Awards (WTA). DOT was also awarded Asia’s Leading Tourism Board by WTA for the significant increase in tourist arrivals for the Philippines in 2018.
“Our tourist spots carry with them our pride and heritage,” Sec. Puyat emphasized. “This moment calls for decisive action from all sectors involved to protect our destinations and ensure that the fun lasts forever.”
Tourism also positively impacts the lives and communities of locals and nearby residents. Based on a commissioned study, locals expressed that making their areas popular attracts more economic opportunities, boosts business profitability, and provides income for the local government.
Embarking on a sustainable tourism mindset
DOT Sec. Puyat calls for all stakeholders to strengthen their mindset towards sustainable tourism. “We are now living in a time where we are more empowered to create better tourism choices for ourselves and our communities, and inspire others to care more for our tourist destinations.”
According to the Tourism Secretary, the SOS campaign does not require the grandest of gestures—small, communal and continuous actions will go a long way. “We can start with simple deeds, such as using reusable tumblers instead of single-use plastics; respecting the local culture; throwing your wastes properly and, if somebody fails to do so, initiating to pick them up; advocating for local products; or just planning your next trip to be a responsible tourist wherever you go,” she encouraged.
The DOT also calls for the help of the local government, the private sector, and the people—both tourists and local residents, as sustainable tourism entails the unified efforts of all stakeholders.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to inculcate that sustainable tourism is our way to go,” Sec. Puyat further stressed. “We hope that the SOS movement or this bayanihan project will ensure that our seas remain clean and thriving with marine life, our mountains and forests stay green and flourishing, and our cultural heritage continues to live on. By doing so, we continue to increase tourist arrivals, and enhance income-generating opportunities for Filipinos.”