TOURISM FAIR. The entrance to the 22nd Provincial Tourism Week event in Ayala Malls Capitol Central in Bacolod City during the opening day on Monday (Sept. 19, 2022). Various local government units are showcasing the best of their products, tourism destinations, arts and culture, and investment opportunities under the theme “Rethinking Tourism”. (PNA photo by Nanette L. Guadalquiver) 

BACOLOD CITY – The province of Negros Occidental is pushing for an inclusive and sustainable tourism to regain its status as among the top tourist destinations in Western Visayas.

At the opening of the 22nd Provincial Tourism Week in Ayala Malls Capitol Central here on Monday, various local government units, including this capital city, showcased the best of their products, tourism destinations, arts and culture, and investment opportunities under the theme “Rethinking Tourism”.

“We are re-thinking tourism, not just the usual leisure and service. Our aim is to incorporate responsibility for sustainable development. While tourism brings in economic activities, it has to trickle down to our communities,” said Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz II, who was the guest speaker during the opening rites.

He cited as example the provincial government-owned Mambukal Resort and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is intended not just for leisure and recreation, but also for protection and conservation of flora and fauna as well as the healing of guests.

“We want to inculcate on the tourism officers that while we accept guests, we have to care of nature and (be mindful) of the impact on the communities where they go,” he said.

Diaz said as a tourism industry, Negros Occidental continues to get back on its feet. The province welcomes back the locals, visitors from the rest of the country, and international guests to show what the Negrenses have to offer.

Before the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Negros Occidental registered the second highest number of tourist arrivals in Western Visayas, next only to Aklan’s Boracay Island.

In a message read by Diaz, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said that in Negros Occidental, tourism is a golden opportunity to ensure benefits for the medium, small and micro enterprises, local communities and rural stakeholders.

“Today, as we start our Provincial Tourism Week, with the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism”, we acknowledge the changing paradigm of the industry. Tourism used to be characterized as leisure and service,” he said.

“While such emphasis is essential to the industry, let us now look at tourism as a tool for advancing sustainable development and a driving force for social inclusion and engine for prosperity and integration, and a means to protect the environment,” the governor added.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability. (PNA)