The non-inclusion of farm tourism in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) 2017 and lack of financing for agri-tourism cooperatives have been identified as major gaps that delay the development of the country's agri-tourism development.
In a farm tourism workshop hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), a strategic plan has been presented to iron out the gaps that will make the Philippines benchmark with the progressive farm tourism prominence of Japan and Thailand.
"It is imperative to close the gap to ensure that there is a harmonized approach to development, monitoring, and evaluation across all partner agencies," said Gwendolyn S. Batoon, Department of Tourism (DOT) Farm & Ecotourism team head at the SEARCA workshop.
DOT is currently adopting the "Philippine Brand" which patterns after Thailand's use of its unique identity of farming rice and silk while promoting its canal waterways as conveyors of marketing farm produce.
At the same time, its other benchmark is Japan's use of "prefecture" identity—promoting its unique products like wasabi and wagyu.
Promoting farm tourism has been a top advocacy of SEARCA since it introduced in 2012 the first Philippine National Agri-tourism Research Conference, believing it is a route to more rural jobs and increasing farmers' income.
"We are happy that four years later, the Philippines has signed into law the Farm Tourism Development Act. It will help raise farmers' income and increase players in the rural tourism industry," said SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.
He cites important progress in agri-tourism in the Mekong sub-region.
"Southeast Asia is blessed with natural resources… some have potentials to contribute substantially to the region's economy. The Mekong sub-region have recognized that agriculture and tourism are not totally mutually exclusive. These have convergence points that bring value added to each other," Saguiguit said.
SEARCA has partnered with the International School of Sustainable Tourism, Agricultural Training Institute, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and Department of Trade and Industry, and the office of Sen. Cynthia Villar in pushing for agri-tourism development.
Batoon said that one of the important gaps to solve is the absence or lack of marketing support or corresponding financial incentives including those for joint promotions, participations in trade fairs and exhibits, standardization of farm tourism brands, and assistance in distribution and marketing of farm products.
Other gaps would be the absence of comprehensive farm tourism information system; absence of capacity building of local government units and for farm owners to take on functions of tour operators to improve mark up in favor of farmers and given seasonal workforce; absence of data on supply side, trends and innovations on farm tourism that may be shared with operators; inadequate knowledge on manpower needs, sustainable practices, and lack of data on sustainable farm tourism; among others.