Palawan Governor Dennis Socrates (center) cuts the ribbon to open the CBST Mini Fair 2024 at the Provincial Capitol Compound in Puerto Princesa City. (Photo from the Palawan PIO)

The provincial government has commenced a two-day community-based sustainable tourism fair aimed at deepening understanding of creative tourism and empowering stakeholders with valuable insights into sustainable tourism practices.

Creative tourism, as outlined in the recently passed Republic Act 11904, also known as the Philippine Creative Industries Act of 2022 (PCIDA), serves as a cornerstone for nurturing the creative sectors. The legislation mandates protections and strengthens the rights and capabilities of creative enterprises, creators, and stakeholders nationwide.

Governor Dennis Socrates led the event on March 13 at the Capitol Building, under the theme “Enhancing Local Capacity: Fostering Sustainable Livelihood through Creative Tourism and Gender-Inclusive Development.”

The governor expressed pride in joining everyone in discussing community-based sustainable tourism (CBST), recognizing it as the future direction of the province’s tourism industry.

Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Officer Maribel Buñi (left most) with DTI Palawan Provincial Director Hazel Salvador, Board Member Roseller Pineda, Arnold Calalin Valdez Jr. of the provincial tourism office, and other employees of the province.

Socrates emphasized tourism’s critical role in driving economic growth, while also noting how creative tourism enriches visitor experiences and communities, contributing substantially to the overall growth and sustainability of tourism destinations.

“Karangalan ko na makaisa kayong lahat sa pagpupulong na ito na tatalakay sa community-based sustainable tourism na direksyong pinatutunguhan ng industriya ng turismo sa ating lalawigan. Sapagkat alam natin na ang turismo rin ang pangunahing industriyang inaasahan nating magpapalago sa ating ekonomiya,” he said.

Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Officer Maribel Buñi explained during the first day that creative tourism involves travelers immersing themselves in local culture, arts, and heritage, aiming to learn and engage actively during their travel experience, beyond just visiting natural attractions.

She said it is about travelers to Palawan gaining authentic experiences and empowering local communities to showcase their cultural heritage and talents, fostering a sense of pride and ownership.

“Ang creative tourism ay travel na directed towards an authentic and immersive experience na ang layunin ay participative learning—matuto ang mga turista hindi lamang sa natural attraction sites bagkus yung may kinalaman sa arts at heritage,” Buñi explained.

Meanwhile, according to Board Member Roseller Pineda, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Heritage and Tourism Development in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, members of CBST organizations should acquire knowledge to operationalize it in their areas.

Furthermore, he added that CBST organizations and associations play an important role in creative tourism because they are directly situated in the areas and are familiar with the cultures and traditions that should be introduced not only to residents of other provinces in the country but to the whole world.

“We [will] help them gain new [and] valuable insights and skills to enhance our community-based tourism organizations. In this gathering, we will introduce new perspectives on creative tourism kung saan ito ay involvement ng tourists and communities,” he said.

The event has a mini-fair that showcases locally produced products from various small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the province, handicrafts, authentic local food, and delicacies, among others.

It was attended by CBST organizations, the Gender and Development (GAD) focal point, local officials, and other stakeholders from the municipalities of Araceli, Busuanga, El Nido, Cagayancillo, Magsaysay, San Vicente, Taytay, Dumaran, Linapacan, Roxas, Aborlan, Bataraza, Rizal, Quezon, Sofronio Española, and the city of Puerto Princesa.

Department of Trade and Industry-Palawan Provincial Director Hazel Salvador stood as a resource speaker.

The activity, which is still part of the province’s celebration of Women’s Month, was initiated through the collaboration of the Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Office together with the Provincial Gender and Development Office.