Agri-tourism to drive Boracay comeback

  • 17 May 2018

Source: Claire Delfin Media
17 May 2018

The academic think tank SEARCA has pushed for the integration of agricultural tourism into Boracay in light of ideas on land reform and "experience economy" that must be beneficial for tourists, indigenous people (IP), and natural resources.

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit asserted SEARCA's agritourism proposal in Boracay will teach small, IP farmers best agricultural practices, involve them in the value chain and introduce them to agri-tourism.

"The most important component," Dr. Saguiguit said, "would be to teach farmers of Boracay agri-tourism as an alternative source of income in the mold of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia where there are paddy areas which attract tourists as much as the island's world-famous beaches."

SEARCA pushed for its assistance to the local and national government on agriculture value adding where it has expertise on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of his plan to place Boracay under land reform.

Saguiguit Jr. said through agritourism, farmers will be able to make the best use of the land they will receive from the government

"With the world watching the rehabilitation of Boracay, SEARCA sees this time as an excellent window for demonstrating sustainable agriculture practices to show that the invigorated farms would not only be economically viable but also environmentally sound. The importance of forest rehabilitation, re-planting, and protection will also be stressed with the possibly significant involvement of indigenous people," said Saguiguit said.

What's good about Boracay is farmers will not incur hefty transportation costs just to sell their farm produce.

"Whatever farmers produce, they can sell right on the island. They don't have to bring out their produce. They can sell raw products to hotels and other tourist locations and explore possibilities for postharvest processing into alternative heft that tourists would buy. These are essentials in an island economy," said Saguiguit.

Given the push for agri-tourism, he said Boracay is a prime location to demonstrate that farmers can actually earn from the tourism boom by providing opportunities for tourists to experience a rural farm setting in the Philippines without having to get away from Boracay.

He said the plan is to involve the local government unit and private sector to ensure that the proposed agricultural and rural development initiative will be inclusive and sustainable.

SEARCA is actively seeking expressions of interest and possible support from government agencies and other entities to develop and implement this concept approach to help Boracay.

New ideas on agri-tourism have been coming up as SEARCA has held agri-tourism conferences.

One of such revolutionary idea on agri-tourism that made tourism in developed economies like that of Taiwan and Thailand more prosperous is the adoption of the "experience economy."

With an "experience" in rural farming– harvesting of fruits and vegetables such as picking of strawberry or staying for one day in a fishing village while catching one's own fish to cook for a meal, tourism becomes more attractive and saleable to more urban people.

With visitors "experiencing" the agricultural life, Taiwan has made its tourism sector progressive. After 40 years, Taiwan has attracted more farm businesses and tourists, according to Dr. Wan Yu Liu of the National Chung Hsing University in a SEARCA-organized agri-tourism conference.

It now has more than 3,000 well-established tourism farms.

Taiwan's recreational agriculture involves sightseeing consumption and purchasing souvenir and agricultural products, browsing farm scenery, and staying in a short time. Sightseeing involves signs of orchards, vegetable gardens, bee gardens, duck park, goose park, fish pond, aquafarming, deer park, flower garden, and vanilla farm.

Its leisure farming involves short term or long term agricultural experience—leisure plantation, leisure forest, recreational ranch, leisure orchid park, insect ecological farm, tribal life farm, and resort.

Its citizen farms enable city people to rent and use a farm in a long run

"The tenants and their families visit the farm frequently to participate in farming and harvesting in order to 'experience' the role of a farmer and the operating process of agricultural production, enjoy farm fun, increase spontaneous friendship among tenants, and participate in fraternity and competitions arranged by the farm owners," said Wan.

After the agrarian age, the industrial revolution, and the services economy, the experience economy is believed by certain economists to have started emerging.

As services have become commoditized just like goods, the experience economy has become imperative as a "progression of economic value."

"Experiences are a distinct economic offering," according to authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore in a Harvard Business Review publication.

"This transition from selling services to selling experiences will be no easier for established companies to undertake and weather than the last great economic shift, from the industrial to the service economy. Unless companies want to be in a commoditized business, however, they will be compelled to upgrade their offerings to the next stage of economic value," said Pine and Gilmore.

SEARCA has been a pioneer in pushing for aggressive agricultural tourism in the Philippines as a way to fulfill its mission of Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development.

ISARD aims to integrate operations of even small, poor farmers into the prosperous national and international farm economy.

SEARCA introduced in 2012 the first Philippine National Agritourism Research Conference, believing agritourism is a route to more rural jobs and increasing farmers' income.

SEARCA was instrumental in the advancement of the initial idea that led to the passage of the Farm Development Act together with its partnership with Senator Cynthia Villar.