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Understanding sustainable tourism from an Asian perspective

Posted: 2015-11-05
Category: Events

Global Network Week: A management course on sustainable tourism for students of the Global Network for Advanced Management
19-23 October 2015

The W. SyCip Graduate School of Business (WSGSB) and the Dr. Andrew L. tan Center for Tourism (ALT-CFT) of the Asian institute of Management (AIM) had its first day of the weeklong Sustainable Tourism Management course for students of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM). The first day of the course is comprised of classroom sessions held at the AIM. The course is participated by students from Yale School of Management, Sauder School of Business – University of British Columbia, and the Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore.


The course was opened by Dr. John Paolo R. Rivera, Program Manager of the ALT-CFT. In this session, students were given a brief overview of the entire course, sites to visit, resource speakers to meet, and the details of their capstone project – a business plan for the promotion of sustainable tourism in Iba, Zambales and Mangro Grove at Bancal River. Just like in the previous Global Network Weeks, this weeklong course aims to introduce principles, theories, business models, and case studies in the responsible development and management of tourism destinations.


After the course orientation, a lecture on Sustainable Tourism was conducted by Dr. Fernando Y. Roxas, Executive Director of the ALT-CFT. In this session, it was established that ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism – the triple bottom line strategy. The global ecotourism market has been one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry with an estimated annual growth range of 5 percent to 50 percent. Given this growth rate, ecotourism has the capacity to create eight billion visits per year to protected areas. The reasons for this global ecotourism growth are: environmental awareness and interest, media exposure to natural areas, satisfaction with traditional tourism, and increased connectivity to ecotourism destinations. 

Aside from a lecture, students were given the opportunity to exchange ideas with industry practitioners (i.e. resort owners, tour operators) and representatives from the local government units and non-government organizations from different parts of the Philippines (i.e. Manila, Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Leyte, Davao). Issues ranging from the sustainability of business operations of small and medium enterprises to the role of the government in fostering sustainability have been discussed. 

 From a global perspective, a session on Philippine tourism industry was conducted by Ms. Maria Cristina M. Aguilar, Program Coordinator of the ALT-CFT. Students were introduced to the Philippines’ sights and sounds, peculiarities of the Philippine society, performance and direction of the Philippine tourism industry.

 To cap today’s classroom sessions, Dr. Michael Angelo A. Cortez, Associate Professor from the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, delivered a lecture on the different models of sustainability (in manufacturing, automotive) and the sustainability portfolio (clean technology, pollution prevention, sustainability vision, product stewardship). The students were also introduced to the environmental accounting standards in Japan. 

 After the classrooms sessions, it is time to bring what students have learned in actual practice. This year, students were taken to Zambawood, San Narciso, Zambales; Casa San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales; and Mango Grove at Bancal River, Iba, Zambales. Each destination has a lesson to impart to the students. 

 Day 2 started with a scenic trip towards Northern Luzon. The students were hosted by Ms. Rachel Harrison, Owner of Zambawood.  She shared with the students the story why Zambawood was established. According to Harrison, it started with a vision to build a haven for special individuals with special needs. The place was inspired by Julyan – Rachel’s son with autism. A farm was even named after him – Julyan’s Pine Beach Farm that provides tranquility and serves as Julyan’s classroom where he spends his time with farming activities – grows organic vegetables and raises free-range chickens. The Zambales mountain ranges can be viewed from the farm accompanied by the sea breeze and the scent of the countryside. Their in-house chefs prepare the farm’s natural produce for the students to enjoy local flavors. What started as a residence for Julyan to enjoy is now evolving into an exceptional place for other people to be inspired.


The students were also hosted by Mr. Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, world-renowned violinist and cofounder of the Metro Manila Community Orchestra, in Casa San Miguel. Bolipata shared with the students the story of Casa San Miguel. It started as a school program for underprivileged but artistically inclined children to draw and paint. Eventually, they also offered violin and cello lessons. Now, they have 120 students coming from families of fishermen and carpenters. They have expanded with the help of corporate sponsorships and the profits from their restaurant, the Backstage Café.  As the operations become sustainable, they are planning to add an added product offering – a tour of Anawangin, glam ping, wind surfing. They also maintain strong linkage with Citibank, Starbucks, and Globe Telecoms among others for sponsorships. Moreover, Casa San Miguel does not spend on advertisements. They generate sales mostly from social media promotions.   

Day 3 started with students swimming and kayaking on the pristine waters of Bancal river with the Zambales mountain ranges on their background. After the water activities, classroom sessions were held at Mango Grove at Bancal River. The first resource speaker, Ms. Emily Raguindin, Community Organizer of Iba, discussed the displacement of the Aeta tribe when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991. The Aetas are believed to be the first settlers in the Philippines. Upon resettlement in Jesmag, the Aetas were taught to make farming as their primary livelihood. With the assistance from the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. (ALKFI), from 20, there are now 50 families in Jesmag and ALKFI ensures that at least a member of the household is employed.      


The students were also privileged to hear from Mr. Gil Carandang. He is considered as the Father of Organic Farming in the Philippines. He shared his experiences in training farmers in the province of Leyte and his work involvements in El Nido. He emphasized the essence of adapting the path of organic and natural farming techniques as the requisite for sustainability. He imparted the use of appropriate technology and microbial in farming. That is, farmers must use natural enzymes and lactobacillus. Likewise, farming with water, earth, and fire must be the rule of nature adapted by farmers. 


In relation to the lecture of Carandang, Chef Geoffrey Blanchette, Owner of RBI Steak House, Angeles City, Pampanga, discussed farm-to-table food preparation. He did a kitchen demo of preparing Asian salad – plating and presentation. Students gathered ingredients fresh from the farm and let them prepare a salad with their self-made dressing. Chef Blanchette believes that training in food presentation will spur interest in culinary arts allowing students to create flavorful cuisines.    

After the classrooms sessions and site visits, the students went back to Manila to process what they have learned as they join the lecture of Dr. Benjamin C. Bagadion, Jr. on Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Development in the Philippines. In this classroom session, students were introduced to other protected areas in the Philippines (i.e. Apo Island, Pujada Bay). Students got to analyze the case study Managing the Pujada Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape. Analysis of the case study as discussed in the class boils down to three essential lessons: (1) The beauty of nature should be the starting point of designing programs; (2) There is a need to ensure community participation and ownership in order to avoid elite capture. That is, the community cooperating with local government will be at its optimum if there is a sense of ownership among community members. However, this requires political will; and (3) To enhance environmental protection, there is a need to anticipate second-generation problems. Hence, leadership is a critical variable because leadership can create a win-win situation. 

Having touched on the concept of leadership, the succeeding classroom session by Dr. Milagros D. Lagrosa focused on Leadership Effectiveness, Stakeholder Management, and Corporate Social Responsibility. This session focused on the strategic management of human capital and methods to lead a sustainable tourism workforce. Students were grouped with the various industry practitioners of the Philippine tourism industry. They were tasked to create new knowledge about how to mobilize their respective social and environmental advocacies. At the end of the group dynamic sessions, each group presented their newfound knowledge. Overall, participants call for the need to engage in socially responsible undertakings such as pursuing profit maximization vis-à-vis environmental protection and the maximization of tourists' experience while promoting community benefit.


The following day, students presented their capstone project – a business plan for the sustainability of Mango Grove at Bancal River (MGBR). Their panelists were Dr. Fernando Y. Roxas, Dr. John Paolo R. Rivera, and Ms. Cristina Tabora. The students presented a comprehensive business plan suggesting for an improved value proposition and an intensified marketing initiative for MGBR. Tabora commended the students for their inputs and feedback, which she would definitely incorporate into their plans.


After the presentations of capstone projects, a closing ceremony was conducted. Dr. Noel M. Cortez, Head of the W. SyCip Graduate School of Business, wrapped up the entire week.  He emphasized that there is more to learn and discover in the Philippines. Likewise, he underscored the commitment of AIM to bring together students from the GNAM through such program that will facilitate a meaningful exchange of perspectives. This will allow students to understand the linkages among tourism stakeholders and its significance for enterprises and organizations across sectors. 

Indeed, the private sector, local government, and non-government organizations occupy a vital role in asserting sustainable tourism. In the midst of climate change, there is a need for stakeholders to engage in socially responsible undertakings – pursuing profit maximization together with environmental protection, maximizing tourists' experience, and promoting community benefit.


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