Aside from the country’s pristine beaches, farms, where high-value crops (HVCs) are grown, are also expected to draw tourists to the Philippines this year, an official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Thursday.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Eden Josephine L. David also told the BusinessMirror during its Coffee Club Forum on January 11 that the DOT is expanding the number of accredited farm-tourism sites this year.
“Our goal is for farm tourism to contribute 10 percent to the increase in tourist arrivals. If the target is 8 million [tourist arrivals] this year, then at least 10 percent of that increase [should] come from the farm-tourism sector,” David said.
She added the DOT considers farm tourism as a “sunrise” industry which can help cut rural poverty.
“One of the major things that [Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo] wants to put emphasis on is helping the marginalized sector, to uplift the lives of the people in the countryside,” David said.
“One thing we acknowledge is that Philippines, which is largely agricultural, has a potential for farm tourism. There will be changes in the quality of life of farmers if they are given the opportunity to diversify their income base through farm tourism,” she added.
Currently, the DOT official said there are 26 accredited farm-tourism sites in the country, many of which are in Calabarzon. David added that they are targeting to increase the number of accredited farm-tourism sites by 10 percent this year.
“At present we have sites that showcase farming and organic, some are producing vegetables. There are also farms which have fruit trees, like the cacao farm of Malagos,” she said.
David added the DOT is keen on expanding farm-tourism sites in provinces that produce HVCs—bananas, pineapples, cacao—such as Soccsksargen, Davao and Bukidnon.
“We’re looking at these areas not just because of HVCs but also because connectivity and gateways are available,” David said. “We cannot just offer farm tourist sites; it must be completed with other adventure activities available in the area.”
David added there are about 900 potential farm-tourism sites in the country, as indicated by a list from the Department of Agriculture (DA).
For this year, David said, the DOT is promoting farm-tourism visits, particularly among millennials. “For now, our specific target is the domestic market.”
“We have to move them not only to Luzon-based farm sites but also around the country. People are willing to go to areas that are interesting and different—things that are being sought by millennials,” she added.
The DOT is encouraging accredited and interested farm-tourism site owners to develop the “entertainment” potential of their areas, according to David.
“Definitely, we are looking at the engagement they could offer to all the members of the family. There can also be more physical activities in the farm, aside from planting, harvesting and sampling crops,” she added.
David said the government currently extends various forms of assistance to farm owners. “If a farm is accredited, the DOT will promote it. [Farm owners] will also get free training from the government and free advertisement. We ask our tour operators to include farm-tourism sites in their tour packages.”
She said the DOT is also keen on giving fiscal incentives to owners of farm-tourism sites. David, however, could not yet say the tax perks that the government can grant to farm-tourism site owners as the Farm Tourism Development Board (FTDB) has yet to deliberate on the matter.
David also said the DOT is planning to convene the FTDB within the month to finalize the Farm Tourism Roadmap. She said the road map would serve as the DOT’s blueprint for developing farm-tourism sites.
“We are looking to finish the road map within the first quarter of the year,” she said.
The FTDB is comprised of the DOT chief, who sits as its chairman, while the agriculture secretary serves as its vice chairman. The trade secretary is also a member of the FTDB.
The creation of the FTDB is mandated by Republic Act (RA) 10816, or the “Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016,” which seeks to develop and promote the country’s farm-tourism sector. RA 10816 was signed into law by President Aquino in May 2016.
Under RA 10186, the DOT, the DA and the Philippine Information Agency shall launch and pursue a nationwide campaign to promote farm-tourism and accredited farm-tourism camps, and promote the principle of sustainable development.
“For this purpose, the DOT and the DA shall encourage the establishment of at least one farm-tourism camp in every province in the country,” RA 10186 read.
RA 10186 also provides that the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Transportation, the DA and other infrastructure agencies shall include in their annual development plans and priority investment programs, infrastructure projects and transportation programs to expand access to farm-tourism camps.