Bukidnon needs to work on its tourism industry, says biz chamber official

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 12 June) – Bukidnon, with its beautiful landscape in the mountains, has a lot more to offer to tourists other than just Dahilayan, an officer of the business chamber pointed out.

“Bukidnon (tourism) is not just Dahilayan. Many come for our natural tourist attractions,” stressed Maite Abellanosa, who chairs the tourism cluster of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.

Dahilayan in the municipality of Manolo Fortich offers one of the longest ziplines in the country and a host of other adventure packages.

Abellanosa told the Strictly Business News Conference here Wednesday that the province has the tourist destinations but there is a need to work for it with destination management.

She cited the Monastery of the Transfiguration in the outskirts of this city, whose sprawling green compound would be a treat for city dwellers wanting peace and quiet. Abellanosa mentioned, too, the Center for Environment Development and Recreation (CEDAR) in the municipality of Impasug-ong, which has a few waterfalls reachable after a long walk under the canopy of trees.

Bukidnon likewise hosts the country’s second highest peak in the Kitanglad mountain range, considered as one of the key biodiversity areas.

But Abellanosa lamented that while Bukidnon has all the ingredients for a booming tourism industry, “all of the stakeholders are not linked in a value chain.”

She said the tourism sector must know how to connect their part with the other stakeholders.

Abellanosa cited that there is a need to develop potential scenic attractions to make them better tourist destinations, then help market these destinations.

She said Bukidnon’s top attractions are “nature” and “adventure” tours, but added that the province can do very good in attracting tourists interested in “culture” and “agriculture.” She said local tourism can be developed in all those four aspects.

The province hosts seven indigenous tribes, each with colorful culture that get showcased only during the annual Kaamulan Festival.

Touring the mountains of Bukidnon, one can see the vast pineapple, banana and sugarcane plantations, not to mention the various vegetable and fruit crops.

Abellanosa pointed out that they have the potential to accommodate any type of tourist, but they have not developed the capacity yet.

She said there is a need to train tour guides.

Abellanosa, who is one of the pioneering cultural guides in the province, noted that there are only two tour operators accredited by the provincial government, but with workers who are mostly from Cagayan de Oro City “who know nothing about Bukidnon.”

She said she has a tieup with the Bukidnon State University (BSU) for the training of to help prepare the province for cultural tourism. These students, she said, are those taking up social science and hotel and restaurant management courses.

Chamber officials lauded the initial training of BSU students on Bukidnon culture as a start of the enabling measures to develop tourism in the province.

Abellanosa said she will link with tour operators so the trained students will be hired as cultural guides.

The chamber, she said, intends to support culture tourism in the province, citing the music and arts of Waway Saway and his group of Talaandig artists.

“That’s our top global product from Bukidnon. What’s good about them is that among similar groups, they are the ones who excel. They take efforts to polish their craft,” Abellanosa stressed.

She noted, however, that Waway’s group is not getting much support locally, especially in the upcoming Bukidnon centennial celebration in September.

Roberto Tinsay, the chamber’s vice president for membership, cited that tourism should be emphasized in pursuing development because it is “one the best drivers of growth”.

He cited the need to link the chamber’s efforts on tourism with the social entrepreneurship movement initiated in the province by the Central Mindanao University (CMU), which hosted the 1st Mindanao Social Business Summit last week. CMU officials were in the news conference to update the press on the outcomes of the summit.