August 24, 2017
Victorias City in Negros Occidental is taking cue from Japan's Nanjo City ecotourism model to help boost tourism in the area.
With assistance from Japanese volunteer dispatched under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Volunteer Program and Nanjo City, the local government of Victorias are boosting agri-ecotourism in Victorias through bird watching tours to Japanese tourists, farm tours to local tourists, and introduction of eco-bento meals in local cafes.
"The goal is to help Victorias increase its tourist arrivals by 30% from the 2015 baseline of 80,924 tourists. Victorias, with its natural parks, bears semblance to Japan's Nanjo City as ecotourism destination. We can certainly explore new tourism opportunities through Victorias' eco parks and agriculture products," said Japanese volunteer Mikaru Nakazato who was dispatched under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program of JICA in 2016.
Prior to her work in Victorias, Nakazato worked at the tourism department of the Nanjo City Hall.
The latter has been attracting tourists by capitalizing on the city's natural parks, limestone caves, beaches, and various ecotourism sites. Nanjo City, located on the southern part of Okinawa, is also Victorias'sister city supporting each other's regional revitalization through sustainable development and partnerships under a technical cooperation project with JICA.
Victorias City's tourism mascot Tori, is in fact inspired by Nanjo City's mascot Nanji.
As part of the city's tourism promotions, Nakazato shared that Victorias will also host a seminar this week on eco bento-making led by an instructor from Nanjo City. The meal boxes feature Victorias'local food and harvests from local farmers wrapped in banana leaves.
"The eco-bento meals can offer opportunities for restaurants and cafes in Victorias especially to cater to tourists in bird watching activities," added Nakazato.
Victorias is a migratory path of some 166 species of birds that fly around the forest of Gawahon Eco Park. The best season to see them is March to May of each year. The rare Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon and Rufous Headed Hornbill have also been spotted in Victorias.
This September, Nakazato with help from Japan Foundation Manila will also hold a craft fair in Victorias showcasing local crafts and fabrics from the city itself and Okinawa.
"Victorias could learn from Nanjo City new areas to enhance tourism to create more jobs and economic opportunities at the local level," Nakato said.
Tori (far right) is Victorias City's mascot meant to promote tourism in the area and is inspired by the tourism mascot in Nanjo City in Japan, Victorias' sister city
Japanese volunteer Mikaru Nakazato (far right) at Victorias City's Gawahon Park popular for its bird watching activities. Nakazato helps promote local agri eco-tourism modeled after Nanjo City
Eco-bento meal making is being taught at a local café in Victorias City to create livelihood opportunities in the local community and to cater to tourists