New travel deal hopes to attract “voluntourists”
SAN FRANCISCO—The Philippines’ Department of Tourism and ABS-CBN Foundation International recently signed a memorandum of agreement to launch Voluntrip, a program that combines philanthropy with tourism.
The program will take visitors to community-developed ecotourism sites aided by ABS-CBN Foundation Greenfund Philippines in pristine locales in Palawan, rainforests in Sibuyan, Romblon, and cultural havens in Bicol.
“Tourism, as you know, is an important industry and a catalyst for growth and development, said Rene de los Santos, tourism attaché at the Philippine Consulate, where the MOU was announced.
“It generates income to community in terms of employment for the local folks, aside from generating income and employment for the hotels, resorts, tour guides, taxi drivers and so forth.”
De los Santos signed the MOU with Jo Ann Kyle, ABS-CBN Foundation International managing director. “We believe that philanthropy,” explained Kyle, “We encourage everyone to experience it firsthand because you cannot visit with these local communities that have paradise for a home and walk away unmoved.”
Greenfund aims to help eradicate poverty in the Philippines while preserving native environments and cultures through community-based ecotourism livelihood projects.
Visitors can help realize this “green dream” by committing to at least five days in ecotourism sites where they go on spelunking and zip lining adventures on an 18-million-year old rock.
Also featured are cruises down mangroves towards a firefly watching spectacle, hikes down mountain trails towards pristine beaches and under water visits to coral reefs that boast the most diverse animal life in the world.
The private tour through the islands allows travelers to explore the densest forests and their flourishing biodiversity and learn from local inhabitants about their efforts to preserve their environment.
“From the side of the government,” explains de los Santos, “we derive income from the taxes these businesses render from tourism services. This is a vehicle for people to appreciate the beauty, culture and heritage that the Philippines offers.”
Voluntrip tours arranged with Philippine Airlines and Mango Tours will be available starting September. Prospective “voluntourists” visit www.abscbnfoundation.org for more information.
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