Thursday, October 18, 2018
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Investing in sustainable tourism

Surviving and thriving within the Subic Bay Freeport zone, a three-hour ride northwest of Manila and one of the premiere tourist destinations in the Philippines, is the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) headed by former Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor.

ISST ( is tasked to provide training and short-term courses on sustainable tourism, undertake consultancy and community-extension services and, among other objectives, explore market opportunities in Asean and the rest of the world communities.


“We have two major activities, training and workshops,” says Gabor. “The tuition ranges from a high of P30,000 (per person) to a low of P1,200.”

A recent major activity, a five-day ecolodge design and planning workshop with a specialist from Kenya, Mitesh Mehta, was in the high bracket. Among other concerns, the workshop assessed the feasibility and market potential in the ecotourism industry by reviewing market demands and trends.


Participants were mostly professionals, architects as well as landscape architects, government and tourism officials, interior designers, engineers from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and representatives from Cambodia.

There is a request to go to Baguio City, and this will involve a one-day course for 125 participants at P1,200 each.

“Sometimes they pay for the transportation and the [ISST] professors,” says Gabor. “They give us their budget and they just give us a school fee. We work with the local governments, within their budget, what they can afford. We will soon launch our own booking system.”

A home-stay training for three days may cost P5,500.

Recently, another out-of-town activity was held in Banaue, a workshop for 65 families and indigenous peoples, subsidized by the municipal government. The project cost was within the P65,000-P75,000 range.

Yet another training seminar was held for families, this time in Bacolod City.

Farm tourism, meanwhile, is a buzzword within the ISST and the management sees bright prospects as the government meets its goal of revitalizing agriculture in the country.


The school president cited the success of the organic vegetables farm of Albert Jo in Bacolod, Flor’s Garden in Antipolo City and Nature Farm and Gourmet Farm in Tagaytay City.

“Only the staff and the professors draw salaries,” Gabor says. “We (the officers) are volunteers, we don’t earn a centavo. It’s our mission.”

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