By Jun Ledesma
New Zealand is not all about sheep and cattle. The major industry in this land in the deeper south of the globe is tourism. I saw this in a dinner-cum-cultural show of Maori tribe in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Tourists from 21 countries gathered in rustic settings. Except for the fork and spoon and plastic chairs, everytimg is ethnic.
About 500 foreigners travelled by bus to watch the cultural show, native food and a night tour which took us to their forest preserve where we saw glow worms and spring that was their source of water for centuries.
Earlier, we drove for almost 200 kilometers away from Rotorua to get to the Matamata where the movie Lord of the Ring was shot.
Along the way is an endless expanse of grazing lands poke marked by herds of sheeps and cattles. It’s like as far as your eyes can see.
It is often said that there are more sheeps than the 17-million New Zealanders but am confident to say that there are more tourist arrivals each year here than sheeps and cows combined.
Last night, as we were having dinner at the Maori tribe reception hall, a young lady from England who was seated right across our table related that she had been around so many countries but nothing beats the Philippines’ Vigan, the rice terraces which she describes as “magnificent view” and the beaches of Bohol. She promised to go back to the Philippines as there are a lot of beautiful sites to visit which she said she missed. And the food? “Nothing beats the Philippines”, she swore addressing a question raised by her seatmates.
Which made me think and ask why our tourism industry is still a laggard compared to other countries.
If we look at the profile of tourists, big spenders are the Chinese (that comprise the new rich that had emerged in this decade), Japanese, Koreans and the Europeans. These people are in search of mother nature, ethnic shows and food. In many aspects the Philippines is not far behind. In fact, we have more to show and to offer than most countries. We have such a rare ethnic mixture of cultures. Our food variance is excellent, people speak English, our mountain and sea resorts are within 30 minutes from hotel and weather is predictable. Tourist promotions are a must and tourism oriented institutions should rely less on government. There ought to be cooperation among resorts, hotels, restaurants, airline firms and other establishments that are into tourism. Not one single outfit can deliver everything that tourists expect in a place. In tourism it cannot be “kanya kanya”.
I will have more on this in future write-ups.
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.