By NIKA ROQUE
September 06, 2019
Travel fairs held in the metro often involve promos from established agencies and highlight international destinations. To tip the scales in favor of the Philippines’ beautiful sceneries, therefore, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) — the Department of Tourism’s marketing arm —eagerly organized the Regional Travel Fair in Cagayan de Oro City over the last week in its continuing goal to make nationwide tourism more vibrant than ever.
According to TBP, they have come to mount these fairs more than once a year to coincide with a major festival a particular area such as the Higalaay Festival in Region 10’s capital for its latest outing.
To start with, Regional Travel Fairs are held more than once a year to coincide with a major festival in an area, such as the Higalaay Festival in Region 10’s capital.
“This is our way of supporting the host region not only in promoting their area, but also in generating public interest on domestic tourism. It is an opportune time to endorse other local destinations too, in presenting various tourism products for the public to be more aware of how vibrant our tourism in the Philippines really is,” TPB Domestic Promotions Department acting head Nerissa Juan told The Manila Times.
This in mind, promoting domestic travel is a way to further benefit the country’s economy, environment and culture. Apart from offering discounted tour packages for local travel, the Regional Travel Fair aims to instill knowledge in agencies and travelers alike through presenting forums on trends and issues in tourism, as well as staging tours to understand the culture and practices of the host region.
Some of the topics tackled at the fair were about women empowerment in tourism; traveling for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions or MICE; sustainable tourism; and immersion in a local community.
“This is the kind of tourism we aspire for the Philippines. We don’t just highlight the beauty of the place, but we want to educate tourists to be more responsible travelers to further understand and really appreciate our unique Filipino culture,” Juan continued.
“We advocate and promote a kind of tourism that protects the environment and preserve our culture while providing jobs for the community,” the executive noted.
Traveling like a local
One of the speakers invited by TPB was Kyle “Kulas” Jennerman, the blogger behind the well-known handle “Becoming Filipino,” who talked about his journey, ways of traveling and his love for the Philippines.
A Canadian assigned to work in Hong Kong, Jennerman grew close to his Filipino workmates due to their kindness and positive outlook despite having their difficult jobs. They would hang out during their free time, and Jennerman was intrigued with how Filipinos always stuck together and had a sense of camaraderie. Because of the Filipinos’ natural treatment of others as family, he was eventually invited to visit the country.
Soon after, he left Hong Kong to be in the Philippines because of the mark left by the natural amicable demeanor of his Filipino workmates to his psyche. It was during this time when Typhoon Yolanda hit the country and he spent time volunteering in Tacloban with a Filipino friend. He felt even more appreciative of the culture when he met victims who were resilient. It was this eye-opening experience when he grew connected to the Philippines and made him want to explore more of the culture.
“I’m not Filipino, but I definitely think that a lot of Filipinos have this innate nature of even when life can be difficult, they can find simple things to appreciate,” Jennerman told The Manila Times.
Jennerman has been based in the Philippines for six years and is still traveling across the country with Cagayan de Oro as his home base, and is already fluent in Tagalog and Bisaya. Despite being a foreigner, he was able to visit different areas of the country unknown to locals.
“I became very appreciative of the little things that I was experiencing, like the fiesta where people would give and give but what do they want in return? Nothing, just happiness,” he shared with The Manila Times. “I thought, I’m gonna take this inspiration because I think it’s important to share it.”
In contrast to other travel bloggers who visit tourist spots, Jennerman took another route and immerses in a community to really get to know a place. He does some quick research about the tourist spots but does not make it his main itinerary.
“You just go with the flow, interact along the way, and be open to [asking] yourself, ‘what’s over there? Is it cool? Is there other stuff going on?’ [You] get a mix and match of both local as well as tourist spots,” he said. “Try and veer off a bit and give yourself to really locally connect outside because you may find that it might be the better experience.
“Whenever I go on a trip — 90-percent of the time, it’s completely spontaneous but I do that with purpose — I leave myself open to experiences and whatever happens, I take that and share it.”
Jennerman makes sure to be respectful and maintain a positive energy when immersing with the locals.
“Here in the Philippines, you actually have a better chance to get a personal connection with somebody who lives outside the city or in a rural community,” he said.
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