PH communities can earn from backpack tourism – Israeli envoy

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 March) – Communities can earn by tapping their potential for backpack tourism, the Israeli ambassador to the Philippines said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at an agriculture seminar for business leaders at the Marco Polo Davao, Israeli Ambassador Effie Ben Matityau said this kind of tourism can generate economic opportunities for communities even in the Philippines.

Matityau said both local and foreign tourists can visit communities and contribute to the local economy.

He said he saw this for himself when he was assigned to an embassy post in Thailand.

The ambassador said this was also the experience of Israel, whose terrain is attractive for trekking and backpacking.

“If tourists are willing to spend, say, $4 to $5 on the communities along the road to stay at their places, for the tourist, it could be a small amount, but for the community, that amount is a lot,” Matityahu said.

This generation of travelers is more adventure-hungry and constantly looking for opportunities for travel, Matityahu added.

He cited the tourism experience in Italy where tourists could visit orchards instead of go to hotels or restaurants to get a taste of authentic wines. “In Italy, if you want to know where the good wines are, you go to a vineyard.”

He said a systematic approach to the tourism project could develop communities over time.

The tourists could learn how to take part in community activities like preparing a dish or making handicrafts. “It all adds up,” he said.

There were around 7,000 Israeli tourists last year, an increase of 30% from the 2013 figure.

But Matityahu said this is only a fraction of the 175,000 Israelis who visited Thailand last year.

The City Tourism Office said that they were already looking into these kinds of activities, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Lisette Marques, City Tourism Office head, said the city’s recently amended tourism code allowed for this kind of activity.

For identified areas in the agricultural zones in the city, tourists could see, for example, how the raw materials for chocolates are made in the cacao farms.

“The farms are already in place,” Marques said. “But we haven’t commercialized that yet.”

She added the city needs to assess first whether the communities are ready to welcome tourists and how such activity would impact on local cultures. (MindaNews)