October 19, 2017
A young Japanese dispatched under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Volunteer program is helping build the capacity of 15 ecotourism sites while introducing disaster risk reduction (DRR) in local tourism to attract Japanese tourists in Bohol.
Akiko Nagata, 29, left her job in a Japanese travel agency to volunteer at the Bohol Tourism Office (BTO).
"Bohol has so much potential in sustainable tourism and the Boholanos have a unique kind of hospitality that can help boost tourism in the area," said Nagata, who also previously worked in tourism promotions in Japan's Gunma Prefecture in northern Tokyo.
Already, she has partnered with 12 local government units in Bohol namely Buenavista, Alicia, Anda, Antequera, Balilihan, Carmen, Loboc, Maribojoc, Loay, Dauis, and Danao to study value-added activities including sales tools that can be incorporated in Bohol's tourism programs.
Nagata also worked with the Bohol Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRM) on security and DRR trainings in 34 accommodation facilities and tourism site operators in Bohol. Just recently, Nagata invited a tourism expert on Tourism Crisis Management from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to share crisis management information with over 400 students and tourism stakeholders in Bohol.
Meanwhile, tourist numbers in Bohol have been on the rise, despite the earthquake disaster in 2013 and perceptions on security threats from insurgents this year. In 2016, over a million foreign and local tourists visited Bohol from merely 602,577 during the previous year.
"China, Korea, and USA were Bohol's top markets in terms of arrivals, and there's opportunity to grow the Japanese market particularly through eco-tourism," added Nagata.
Already, a JICA-assisted development cooperation Sustainable Environment Protection Project (SEPP) identified 102 eco-tourism sites in Bohol that foreign tourists can visit. These include firefly and kayaking experience tours in Maribojoc to name a few.
The new Bohol Airport in Panglao scheduled to finish by 2018 is also seen to attract more tourists in the province.
Nagata is among the 47 Japanese volunteers under JICA that are supporting various development areas in the Philippines.
Bohol Tourism Officer Gina Kapirig and JICA volunteer Akiko Nagata work together to develop and promote Bohol's tourism programs
Japanese students and Boholano students did a tree-planting activity at the Bohol Diversity Complex, one of the ecotourism sites promoted