ESSAY: Philippines ranked 6th in Lonely Planet’s top 10 best value destinations for 2011 (Last of two parts)

Second, our hotel services. Most of the time I feel that in many places where I have stayed in my local trips, accommodation is overpriced when I consider the quality of personal service, the food and the room condition. Either we improve the quality, or lower the price to a reasonable level.

Third, how we deal with tourists. The taxi drivers, the cops on the streets, the hawkers in the sidewalks, the tambays in the corner, we all eventually get in contact with the tourists at some point. We should all do our part to make them feel welcome and not just think about how to part them with their dollars.

Next, the management of places that tourists like to visit: historical towns and buildings, our beaches, forest reserves and other natural resources, our local culture.

I love quoting this line from one of my favorite travel writers, Pico Iyer, who said about Bali:

“Say Bali, and two things come to mind: tourism and paradise. Both are inalienable features of the island, and also incompatible. For as fast as paradises seduce tourists, tourists reduce paradises… Hardly has a last paradise been discovered than everyone converges on it so fast that it quickly becomes a paradise lost.”

Can we not say the same about our very own little paradises like Boracay? Sure, the 5-star resorts, with all the tourists and their dollars, they are all good; better for our economy. But at what cost? Tourism brings in the dollars, but there’s a price to pay especially if the industry is not planned or managed properly.

When our local government decides to “improve” a historical spot, say a baroque church or a Spanish colonial house in Ilocos, do they consult historians and art restorers on how best to renovate while keeping the authenticity of the art, or the materials intact? When the coastal towns decide to open their beaches to hotel construction, do they first assess how it will impact the environment? When communities decide to open their indigenous culture and life to external visitors, do they have a plan in place to protect their children once the sex predators swoop in; or their local crafts and livelihood, once the 7-11’s, the Starbuckses, the 5-star hotels, the McDonalds, the malls come barging in?

The tourism industry in the Philippines is about to break. Now is the best time for our government to act on the best plan that will wow the tourists, bring in the dollars and still protect our resources and people. My fear is that most people will think only of the $$$ and sacrifice everything else, even our very soul.#