According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sustainable tourism can be defined as, “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
The main source of livelihood of the people in Sagada is agriculture. Nearly every house owns a piece of land where they can plant corn, rice, and other agriculture products. Some even raise pigs for extra income.
Economic opportunities arose when the tourism demand increased. With the influx of tourists, villagers started to make use of their own houses as lodging houses, inns, hostels, homestays, and bed&breakfast.
These economic opportunities paved way for the creation of tour guiding, transportation services, dining services, weaving and woodcarving, and creation of souvenir shops.
The positive effect of the influx of tourists was the additional income it gave to the locals. However, it also brought problems such as the unequal distribution of economic benefit, privatization of water, and degradation of culture and natural resources,.
The economic benefit is only felt by a few locals who have successfully put up a business, while the rest do not gain anything even though they are the ones who are in control of the tourism businesses. As Dulnuan (2003) states it, “economic gains from tourism are not felt by all.”
Government programs should be well-planned so that many or the majority, if not all, will benefit. Tourism impacts are grouped into three categories: economic, socio-cultural, and environmental. These impacts are essential in the creation of a sustainable tourism. By knowing the impacts of tourism on a certain area, you get to help in the conservation of the natural resources and increase the chances of executing the plan.
Sagada experienced a tourism boom after the film, “That Thing Called Tadhana” shot on Mt. Kiltepan was released last 2015. An astounding number of 114,000 tourists went to Sagada as recorded in 2015 by the Sagada Tourism Office.
Sagada’s main attractions are its natural attractions that has been maintained by the locals through their collective effort. Sadly, some of these attractions have already been vandalized. The policies are not strictly implemented and the tourists are not monitored properly.
According to the CNN Philippines, “The local government of Sagada, Mountain Province reiterated its call for tourists to maintain the cultural and aesthetic value of the town’s attractions as the number of visitors arriving in the province are expected to spike in the coming months.” Some of the natural and cultural attractions were damaged due to the volume and lack of discipline of the tourists.
One of the cultural damages that was recorded was taking a wedding photoshoot in the Lumiang Cave, burial site, without the consent of the locals. Another cultural damage brought upon by the tourists was the celebration of begnas. Begnas is a rice thanksgiving ritual that usually happens three times a year. A lot of tourist often take pictures and selfie shots during the ritual which is a symbol of disrespect. A policy was then implemented saying that picture taking will be done only from afar or once the dancing has started.
In addition, the Sagada caves both closed on April 3, 2017 after a teenager who was playing inside the cave slipped and died. It was reopened two days after the incident. A meeting was held regarding the issue to prevent it from happening again.
“Community-based ecotourism is a form of ecotourism that emphasizes the development of local communities and allows for local residents to have substantial control over, and involvement in, its development and management, and a major proportion of the benefits remain within the community.” Sagada is an example of a community-based ecotourism. Residents have control over the development and management of the area, however they do not know how to handle it properly. Without background in ecotourism, the people will work solely for their own benefit. A good suggestion is to teach the locals of the benefits of ecotourism development since it will greatly affect their lives and it will teach them to preserve nature. Next is implement rules and regulations strictly. There are many issues regarding the vandalism of caves not only in Sagada, but in other places as well. Tour guides must be aware of what the tourists are doing during the trip to avoid any unlawful acts. To improve the place further, there has to be funds for making projects, repairs, restorations and more. They can get funds from the government, NGOs, and donations from the public. With proper allocation of funds, tourism in Sagada will flourish. Now, with the joint cooperation from the residents, government, and stakeholders, sustainable tourism can be achieved.
Catajan, M.E. (2017, Apr 4). Sagada Caves Closed after Teenager Dies. Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/local-news/2017/04/07/sagada-caves-closed-after- teenager-dies-534942.
Dulnuan, J. (2005). Perceived Tourism Impact on Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of Sagada in Mountain Province. In R. B. Alampay (Ed.), Sustainable Tourism Challenges for the Philippines (pp 168-174). Makati City, Philippines: Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
Ferdz. (2014, Nov 4). Begnas. Retrieved from http://www.ironwulf.net/2014/11/04/sagada- begnas-festival-celebration.
Lapniten, K. S. (2016, Jan 12). Tourists Asked to Maintain Sagada’s Integrity. Retrieved from http://cnnphilippines.com/regional/2016/01/12/sagada-tourists-integrity-robert- pangod.html.
Rappler.com (2016, Feb 07). Sagada Tourists Double in 2015. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/business/industries/aviation-tourism/121479-sagada-tourists- double-2015.
Sustainable Tourism. In World Tourism Organization. Retrieved from http://sdt.unwto.org/content/about-us-5.
What is Community Based-Tourism? (2017). Computer Empowerment Network. Retrieved from http://www.endruralpoverty.org/cen-tours-homepage/142-Programs/tourism/409- what-is-community-based-tourism.