The third highest peak in the country, Mount Pulag, which is part of the 11,500 hectares Mount Pulag National Park straddling the three provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya, has been closed off on all weekends of this year. To me, the decision is inconsistent with the region’s tourism goals.
Closing the area reveals that the towns and officials are not prepared to manage a biodiversity-based tourism strategy and are without the necessary resources to realize the plan despite the region’s Department of Tourism’s rhetoric on competitive tourism for the region.
To sustain tourism at Mount Pulag and neighboring areas throughout the area regardless of temperature, there need to be
- A business proposition, as in, what ways can tourism harness biodiversity at the same time preserve it? how can conservation of Mount Pulag Park and neighboring areas contribute to the economy and cultural preservation of local communities through tourism? At the moment, mountain climbing. What else? A wedding venue? A fitness center? Host to a local music, arts, wine and food festival? All that as an “on top of the world” experience, because why not? It should be something tourists would value ie. to come running across oceans for. Then build up the area around that idea.
- Lodging places, not just to sleep but to comfortably rest, sleep, and/or eat. Places for solo travelers, backpackers, for families on a budget, for guests who could splurge on a thousand dollar a night accommodation, in other words, for all classes of tourists.
- These lodging places should put in appropriate heating. In Baguio City, it is most ironic that hotel rooms, even those that charge four- or five-star rates, do not have heating! Instead, they have airconditioning as in cooling! Hotels supposedly spend the most in heating (keeping guests warm in the dead of winter) which is why they ask for the equivalent price of it’s maintenance. So when guests pay five-star rates and there’s no heating and not even a fleece blanket, just thin cottony ones, bloody hell! It’s a rip off! So yes, heating, because we’re a mountain region.
- Transportation. You don’t suppose tourists unless they’re on penance, reenacting the nativity would want to go by donkey, on cold foggy days, all the way to Mount Pulag? Yet this approximates the present state of transportation, for instance, from Baguio to Mount Pulag. It’s why only mountaineers, athletic college kids, are the usual tourists on the site. A more tourist-y ride, one that gives a bird’s eye view of the picturesque mountain scene, a once in a lifetime experience, should already be in the works.
- Other details, such as signages. Signages do matter. What we have with many small businesses are names and signages written on clapboards and cartons, often indiscernible, and hung haphazardly on strings. They are a distracting irritating sight. This projects irresponsibility, of the business not caring whether or not it’s potential customers have to twist their necks just so they would know the product or service it offers. Signages and their content are part of a business’ asset pool, it’s intellectual property, and if businesses don’t give a shit about their property, it only tells the public about their worth which is they’re not worth the premium. So, yes, the small but important details in image consistency matter.
Local tourism need a local government, a private sector, and a citizenry whose mindsets are ahead of the needs and wants of their guests; who are able to see opportunities in their surroundings and create new things of it; who are generous in their vision ie. they want to have others – tourists – partake of their creation because that in itself is tourism (hospitality).
Tourism, creating a brand and sustaining it to meet expectations, is actually hard work. It takes mental work. It requires networks. You don’t say It’s More Fun In The Philippines! and then sit back and expect a million a day visitors to just stream in. Where will you get the money to realize the things stated in your tourism strategy? It takes hard work, constant assessment – how are we doing? are we meeting needs and wants of our target guests? are guests meeting expectations (they’re not raping the park?)? if not, why? and how can we all do things better? – and at times rebranding.