Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ilocos Norte farm owners, tour operators connect to boost tourism

Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—Farm owners and tour operators in the province found themselves joining hands as they exchanged insights on how to strengthen agri-tourism industry here.

In a three-day fun farms seminar workshop held at a hotel this city on July 24-26, Keneth De Gracia, tourism and training director of a Laguna farm shared several tips to turn farm sites into a “must-go” place for local and foreign tourists.

“North Luzon has a big potential for farm tourism considering the high number of tourist arrivals. The market is already there,” said Mr. De Gracia citing tour operators can help these farm owners market their farms as a tourist destination.

In support of the government’s rural economic development plan, the Department of Tourism (DOT) partnered with the Ilocos Norte Travel Agencies Association (INTAA) for the conduct of the seminar workshop enjoining Ilocano farm owners to venture into the exciting business of agro-tourism industry. 

To take advantage of the growing number of visitors in Ilocos Norte, Trixie Ablan, INTAA spokesperson said they plan to upgrade the tourism packages and include DOT-accredited farm sites in the province.

“There are so many farms in the province such as in Dingras, Burgos and Adams. We intend to promote these local farms as additional itinerary to our existing Laoag-Vigan tourism package,” said Ms. Ablan as she reported the new tour packages will be in close coordination with farm owners who are now ready to join the tourism business.

“A farm before was just ordinary but now, we are grateful that we are exposed to a seminar like this. We learned a lot how to promote our products especially now that we have started processing our fruits into wine and dried mangoes,” said Ricardo Tolentino, a mango magnate in Ilocos Norte that manages 10 mango plantations located in various parts of the province.

After the seminar-workshop, Mr. Tolentino said he plans to add tourism amenities such as the establishment of a visitor’s function hall and comfort rooms to his three mango farms at Brgys. Barit and Dungtal in Laoag and in neighboring Vintar town. The Tolentino farm features an integrated farming system offering sweet mangoes during the fruit season and some value-adding products like mango wine and dried mangoes.

For husband and wife Ron and Aurora Cook who has an animal farm at Brgy. Santa Maria this city, the couple said they gained a lot of valuable information on how to get in into the business.

“The seminar is enlightening. It makes you think of the things you are missing and the things you don’t have and how you are going to package it in order to join the market,” said the Cooks.

At least 32 farm owners from all over the province participated in the seminar entitled, “Ilocanos for farm tourism”. Topics included an introduction to farm tourism in the Philippines, getting ready for tourist arrivals, maximizing government support, marketing of farm tourism enterprise, sustainability in tourism development, manpower management, tourism services management, farm safety, climate-smart agriculture, inclusive business and community-based tourism, financing a farm tourism enterprise, tour packaging and pricing among others.

On the last day, the workshop conducted a tour packaging training.

For her part, Evangeline Dadat, DOT Region I supervising tourism officer hopes that more farm owners here will be able to enter the tourism industry as she assured the DOT is always ready to assist them.

“We want to give more farm owners a chance to enter the tourism industry. We continue to provide seminars to level up their knowledge and skills and how to be connected with the tourism industry,” said Ms. Dadat as she stressed farm tourism sites need to be accredited by the DOT to further strengthen their business in terms of promotions, marketing and trainings for free.

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