BACOLOD City – For the second year in a row, Bago City’s sustainable tourism practice has again made it to the Top 100 Green Destinations list, an international platform that acknowledges and celebrates the most inspirational initiatives for sustainable tourism development.
The city’s entry dubbed “Growing a Food Sufficient and Climate Smart Agroecological Destination” was among the Green Destinations’ Top 100 Stories for 2023.
Bago City Senior Tourism Operations Officer Mae Ann Furtos, who represented Mayor Nicholas Yulo, received the recognition from Green Destinations President Albert Salman during the Green Destinations Top 100 Unveiling Ceremony at the Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn, Estonia on Monday, October 9.
Furtos, who is also the city’s sustainability coordinator for the Top 100 Stories, said the city’s entry is a narrative of Bago as a prime agroecological destination in Negros Occidental.
The story recounts the local government unit’s ongoing journey towards sustainable destination development, community empowerment, climate resilient agriculture, food sufficiency, environmental preservation, and regenerative tourism, she added.
The agriculture and agritourism initiatives of the local government under the administration of Mayor Yulo and Vice Mayor Ramon Torres were highlighted in this year’s entry.
“This is in recognition of its efforts towards responsible tourism and distinctive appeal,” Furtos said, adding that the city’s entry was chosen by the judges from a total of 165 story submissions.
The ceremony was part of the Green Destinations 2023 Estonia held in various venues like The Port of Tallinn Cruise Terminal, Nordic Forum Hotel, and Seaplane Harbour Museum.
It can be recalled that in September 2022, Bago City’s “Reviving the Majestic Diversity of the Bago Watershed” project was also included in the Green Destinations Top 100 Stories list.
It then placed third among the finalists for the 2023 Green Destinations Story Awards under the Environment and Climate Category.
The award was received by the city’s sustainability team led by Mayor Yulo, along with his wife Jeanne Louise “Jarie” Yulo, during the ITB Berlin 2023 in Germany in March of that year.
Furtos said that following its inclusion in the Top 100 Green Destinations list, the “Growing a Food Sufficient and Climate Smart Agroecological Destination” entry of the city is now qualified to be evaluated for the 2024 Green Destinations Story Awards.
Furtos also said that the local government is glad to tell the story of Bago City as an agroecological destination as it strives to move towards a responsible, sustainable and regenerative form of tourism.
“We have been partners in agritourism with our City Agriculture Office since 2018 when we had started the groundworks for the program and now it is advancing on the direction that we envisioned — for our farms to be DOT-accredited, for our farmers to be empowered, and for us to enrich our cultural heritage and revive the schools of living tradition in our rural areas which completes a tourist experience in Bago City,” she added.
For his part, Mayor Yulo said the city is again honored to be included in the list of internationally-recognized destinations whose stories and practices uphold sustainable tourism development.
“The award is both an inspiration as well as confirmation of the right direction that we are in,” he said, adding that “it encourages us to do more.”
The mayor stressed that such a sustainable leap is another affirmation of the strong efforts and collaboration of the local government, its stakeholders and constituents – the Bagonhons, especially in environmental protection and conservation that is vital in the realization of the city’s bid for a green and sustainable tourism industry.
Vice Mayor Torres said being competed by many countries who also portray their distinct, best and sustainable growth and development practices, it is a big feat for the city to be included in the list for two consecutive years.
“It [tourism development] has to be sustainable, not a one-shot deal. When the government spends, it also must have its own desired effects that have to be long term. The people, the locales, should benefit first,” he added.
Moreover, Green Destinations is a Netherlands-based organization working on the assessment, capacity building and certification of destinations and businesses committed to sustainable tourism.
It manages a number of global programs through a core team of coordinators and program managers.
The organization leads a global partnership of over 50 representatives, consisting of sustainable tourism experts, consultancies and non-profit organizations.
Also, it works for the benefit of the Green Destinations community.
For Bago City, its sustainability team also includes City Agriculturist-Designate Marvin John Blance, City Environment Management Officer Vicente Mesias and Tourism Operations Officer Jose Marlo Gamo.
For this year, the team had a free training with the Green Destinations through the nomination of Madame Susan Santos de Cárdenas, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Society of Sustainable Tourism.
De Cárdenas is also the Southeast Asia partner and representative of Green Destinations, and co-founder and vice chair of the Asian Ecotourism Network.
She is the city’s mentor for the global standards of tourism sustainability since 2018 and likewise for its Green Destinations Top 100 entries.