MASUNGI GEORESERVE. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat crosses the hanging bridge at Masungi Georeserve in this undated photo. Adventurous activities are "very suitable" to the demands of the new normal of travel because these are mostly done outdoors, promote conservation of nature, and lean away from mass tourism trends, the Department of Tourism said. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – Teeming with more than 7,000 islands that offer unique destinations and experiences, there's no doubt the Philippines is a top choice when it comes to nature and adventure-based travel. This bodes well for the country as tourism officials see this niche becoming the trend under the new normal.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) said adventurous activities are "very suitable" to the demands of the new normal of travel because these are mostly done outdoors, promote conservation of nature, and lean away from mass tourism trends.

"We have a wide range of nature attractions that provides endless opportunities for the kind of travel experience tourists will be looking for-- open-air, well-ventilated activities, low density but high-value kind of experiences, the mountains, the waterfalls, and the beaches," DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. said during the hybrid Adventure and Travel Conference of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) on Wednesday.

"Moving forward, we feel that the Philippines will be able to position itself strongly to this particular segment and again on regeneration of tourism anchored on the adventure travel experience," he added.

Bengzon said the DOT is now looking at promoting the concept of "regenerative tourism," an emerging movement to go beyond sustainable tourism which also involves all stakeholders to make destinations better for both current and future generations.

In the Philippines, Bengzon said two of its prime examples are Donsol, Sorsogon, and the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal.

Bengzon said the whale shark interaction in Donsol provides opportunities for the local community to earn a living while making sure that they take care of the marine resources in the area.

In Masungi, meanwhile, the administrators themselves raise awareness among visitors and make sure the geopark is protected not only for tourism activities but also for providing an avenue for livelihood at the community level.

"So this is the kind of model that we would like to see more of not only in other parts of the Philippines but also other parts of Asia. We see this as the trend in the next few years and we hope that this is something that stakeholders can naturally embrace as we move to a new normal or a better normal," he said.

'Continuously exploring'

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat assured that the DOT would continue to strengthen its product and market development as the country prepares for the eventual restart of tourism.

“Presently, the Philippines retains its pro-active stance in exploring new innovative tourism products, including adventure tourism that will contribute to fast track the recovery of the sector within the Asia-Pacific region. Being primarily an outdoor activity, and with obvious resemblance to the baseline requirement for a healthy and safe travel, it presents an opportunity for a strong reversal and onward growth,” she said in the same event.

“While adventure tourism has been recognized as a global tourism trend and tourists shift their interest to new destinations and experiences, the Philippines’ unique 7,641 islands have a lot to offer,” she added.

The two-day PATA Adventure Travel Conference and Mart, which runs from May 26 to 27, is a niche event consisting of both conference and travel mart components.

Staged in a hybrid set-up, the event took place at the Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort at the Clark Freeport, Pampanga and was attended by some 300 participants, of whom only 61 were allowed on-site in accordance with the government's minimum health standards and social distancing requirements.

A total of 35 Philippine sellers participated in the business-to-business and networking activities. (PNA)