May 30, 2023

La Trinidad, Benguet, the country’s Strawberry Capital, is looking to strengthen its tourism programs to make the community appreciate the developments gained by being a tourist-magnet.
Municipal Tourism Action Officer Valred Olsim said the sangguniang bayan is currently reviewing the town’s tourism code, which would set the direction of the tourism industry.
Olsim said one of the code’s salient features is the accreditation of various tour organizers by their office for easier monitoring of tourists. 
Another is the collection of P20 environmental fee for every tourist visiting the municipality. He said the collection would be made through the tour organizers, who will add the environmental fee in their tour packages.
The challenge, he said, would be for tourists who did not go through tour organizers. He said they would soon set up a system on how to train enforcers on monitoring payment of tourists.
Olsim said over a million tourists visit the famed Strawberry Farm in a year. The fees they collect would be used to fund other tourism-related projects.
“So with the P20, it could go as high as P20 million in collection, which we could use as a bargaining chip with Benguet State University. We could tell them we could be the one to fix the Strawberry Farm infrastructure, for example,” Olsim said. 
He said residents still lack tourism-consciousness perhaps because they do not see the direct impact of being a tourism-oriented town.
“There is low appreciation of tourists coming in. They cannot see the value of tourism. For them to see its value, they have to see some community development gained from tourism,” Olsim said.
For now, he said, the indirect impacts of tourism are felt through business permits and related livelihood benefiting from it.  
He said in putting up the environment fee, they aim to gain more funding from tourism and create infrastructure projects and other programs where locals could also benefit from.
He cited as example Palawan and Alaminos in Pangasinan, which have visible infrastructure projects gained through tourism, which benefits the community.
“If people will see that the coming of tourists has an equal benefit to them, even if there is traffic, they will understand that it will make ourselves better,” he said.
The imposition of environment fee would sift the quality of tourists coming in, as those interested would willingly pay to experience the beauty of La Trinidad. – Ofelia C. Empian