The COVID-19 crisis has shown the world the immense value that must be accorded to food security. In a webinar streamed live on the Department of Tourism – Philippines and DOT Trains Facebook pages last June 16, DOT secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat presented her agency’s response to the impact of the pandemic to the industry by pushing for more farm tourism development in the country.
This included the DOT’s newly formed collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations and Grab Philippines.
“With this new partnership, we aim to link farm tourism to sustainable agricultural practices and better access to infrastructure that promote rural development,” she said.
The new alliance will focus on three areas: enhancing coherence between tourism and agriculture programming in the country; provide technical support on capacity building, research and development, marketing and advocacy, and technological development to promote farm tourism development; and conduct pilot activities to select farm tourism sites.
“Our partnership with Grab seeks to support our Philippine Harvest Initiative to soften the pandemic’s impact on farmers and SMEs by making both fresh and processed local food products more accessible to Filipinos,” Puyat reported.
Philippine Harvest, which started as a trade fair in Bonifacio Global City, launched its own online platform last April in response to the challenges posed by the crisis.
According to Puyat, a second phase of the initiative launched this month brought in Grab in the picture by helping boost Philippine Harvest’s online presence.
Furthermore, the agency’s “Kain Na!”, an annual food and travel festival, will also go digital, further promoting the country as a center of food and gastronomy in Asia.
“Due to the current situation, it will be recalibrated to be a mix of online and on ground implementation,” she explained.
The new “Kain Na!” will feature food tourism webinars and various culinary experiences, while farm tourism sites nationwide will be highlighted to further boost domestic tourism.
“As domestic tourism improves, DOT envisions developing an ecosystem where farmer and fisher folks in the country can sell their products and daily catch to buyers from DOT-partner hotels, resorts and restaurants,” Puyat said.
By establishing a network that connects producers to “local nearby consumers”, DOT hopes to promote a self-sustaining farm-to-table community.
Puyat also shared that the 15 DOT-assisted regional farm tourism associations have formed a national organization now known as Samahan ng Sakahang Pang-Turismo ng Pilipinas.
Moreover, DOT reported a growth of more farm tourism sites in the country – 222 farm tourism sites nationwide as of May 31, or an increase of 27.58% compared to the same period in 2019.
“Farm Tourism holds the promise of food sufficiency and additional income for tourism stakeholders, including farmers, farm workers and fisher folk. Harnessed properly, it can be an important pillar for employment, productivity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods,” the DOT secretary added.