Sustainable tourism school holds programs online

THE program explores livelihood opportunities in farm tourism and urban gardening. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ISST

Tourism is among the hardest-hit industries in the Covid-19 pandemic. It ground to a halt with the imposition of quarantine protocols. What could have been another promising year in 2020 became a struggle to stay afloat for many tourism-related establishments.

The International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), led by former Tourism Secretary Dr. Mina Gabor saw a chance to push for the industry to make a timely pivot.

For the Silang, Cavite-based academy which specializes in education and training, it was an opportunity to tap the virtual world in reaching out to learners locked down in their homes.

The school, which was gearing up for its 10th founding anniversary in May 2020, was compelled to go online to pursue thrusts on sustainable tourism during the pandemic.

“We used the early months of the enhanced community quarantine to record a YouTube video series titled ‘Changing Landscapes’ to provide practical pointers and laid out the groundwork for our online learning offerings,” said Gabor.

She added that with the relaxation of the quarantine in the subsequent months, it proceeded to hold “Sustainable Tourism Opportunities for Entrepreneurship” webinar series for stakeholders sidelined by the crisis.

A collaboration with the Philippine Small and Medium Business Development Foundation Inc. (Philsmed) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), the virtual educational programs explored livelihood opportunities in farm tourism, urban gardening, with local and foreign experts as resource persons.

The school also conducted a “Lifestyle Health and New Consciousness” webinar with former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, Dr. Albert Jo and Liz Mehta of HM Design to address emerging issues and concerns.

DR. Jaime Galvez Tan led the webinar.

To support undertakings on food security, the ISST conducted an “Edible Landscaping” forum with the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) to provide a garden model for homes, commercial and other available vacant spaces as a source of healthy food source during the community quarantine and beyond.

Gabor added that the initiative, along with urban gardening, will be replicated in key local government units in Metro Manila and suburbs to help provide stable food supply. First to implement the program was Parañaque City led by Mayor Edwin Olivares, to be followed by Pasay City.

As part of its diversification, ISST launched its “Food Travel” series that put the spotlight on the rich culinary traditions and food resources of the different provinces. Pampanga, acknowledged as the country’s culinary capital because of its diverse gastronomic offerings and cultural heritage, was first to take center stage in the program.

A joint effort with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Provincial Government, the two-day event featured restaurant stalwarts who helped transform Pampanga into a haven for food tourism with its unique blend of cooking traditions and innovations.

Tenth anniversary highlights

Founded in 2010, the ISST is described by National Geographic Traveller Magazine global editor Costas Christ as the “first sustainable tourism school in the Asia-Pacific region educating a new generation of leaders.”

In 2018, it opened a field campus and forged a strategic partnership with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction in Silang, Cavite.

“As part of our belated 10th anniversary celebration, ISST will hold a series of events and trainings to sustain the momentum we have generated last year,” Gabor said.

Among these are the Global Faith-Based Tourism Conference in line with the Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines, and the 7th National Farm Tourism Conference in Bohol and the adjunct 4th Lakbay Bukid Award that will recognize the industry’s leading personalities.

DR. Mina Gabor with resource speaker Ms. Maria Charito Balladares.

Smaller programs include courses on event management certification, tour guiding, eco guiding, effective customer service, mushroom growing and bamboo production.

Concluding the year is the Dine For A Cause for the benefit of the Indigenous Literacy Program for the Mangyan Hanunuo Tribe in Oriental Mindoro.

Gabor also revealed that the Philippines will host the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM) at the IIRR which will gather global players and stakeholders on ecotourism. Originally scheduled last year, the event will include new systems and technologies which were developed as a Covid-19 pandemic response.

With logistical and resources challenges notwithstanding, ISST is confident that more partners, both foreign and local, will step forward to collaborate with the institution in the fulfilment of its vision.

“We will continue to see rough sailing in the next two years. But beyond the pandemic, ISST is committed in its pursuit of being the premier school with recognized excellence in sustainable tourism education in Southeast Asia by 2025,” Gabor said.

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