Farm tourism's non-inclusion in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) 2017 and lack of financing for agritourism cooperatives have been identified as major gaps that hinder Philippine agritourism development.
In a farm tourism workshop hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), a strategic plan was presented to iron out the gaps that will make the Philippines benchmark with the progressive farm tourism industries 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 Batoon, Department of Tourism (DOT) Farm and Ecotourism team head, during the SEARCA workshop.
DOT is adopting the "Philippine Brand" that is patterned 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 (Japanese horseradish) and wagyu (Japanese cattle breed).
Promoting farm tourism has been a top advocacy of SEARCA since it introduced in 2012 the first Philippine National Agritourism 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 Saguiguit Jr.
He cites important progress in agritourism 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 has recognized that agriculture and tourism are not totally mutually exclusive. These have convergence points that bring value added to each other," Saguiguit added.
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 agritourism development.
"When agritourism experience becomes an event that leaves a lasting impression of 'Made in the Philippines' and the Philippines' Way of Life, tourism truly becomes a pillar of economic growth in the rural community," said Batoon.
Government needs to promote destinations also as sources of specialty products, which will help expand the small and medium enterprise supply chain.
"Agritourism has the potential to enhance the appeal and demand for local products not only to the domestic market but to the international travelers who can be the catalyst for growth in the international market," said Batoon.