Highland tours taking off as new tourism attraction

Ehda Dagooc (The Freeman) - February 19, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu's highland areas are now gaining popularity among tourists, benefiting farmers and small nature-based businesses.

"Highland Adventure" or interactive tours is the most appealing tour package nowadays, to deviate from the usual city tours, culture and heritage, and beach package that Cebu has been offering ever since.

Cebu Association of Tour Operators (CATO) past president Alice Queblatin said in an interview, the trend now is getting away from urban lifestyle. Both domestic and foreign tourists are now more interested in traveling to the countryside like uphill destinations, cultural immersion, and other similar packages.

"Tourists now are going back to nature, even the Japanese are demanding for this kind of tours," said Queblatin.

In Cebu, some travel agencies like Queblatin's Southwinds Travel and Tours are now expanding their offers including the highlands, like gardens, flower farms, fruit farms, rose garden, organic farm, and even an organic healing center in up-west Balamban.

This kind of nature tours, according to Queblatin is slowly benefiting the farmers in different barangays from Busay Hills, going up to Bonbon, and Balamban areas.

A farm owner for instance, earns a hundred pesos or more per tourist, excluding the sales they generate from visitors buying their produce.

For a day-trip going up to Cebu highland destination, Queblatin said it would cost an average of P1,800 per person.

The tour starts at JY Square in Lahug going up to Busay, and the last stop is bringing the tourists to Tops to get a glimpse of the enchanting Cebu sunset, overlooking the City.

This kind of tour package is strongly gaining popularity among Europeans, Americans, Australians, balikbayans and even the domestic travelers, Queblatin said.

Since there is now a growing choice of destinations for highland adventure trips, Queblatin said packages vary depending on the interest of the group.

Mostly, she said the different farms upland, like guava farms, organic farms, flower farms, and similar attractions, are so far more in demand.

Early this year, the Cebu City Tourism Council (CCTC) announced that it will soon introduce an eco-tourism development in the hilly lands of Cebu in coordination with the barangays.

CCTC chairperson Tetta Baad said that the council is going to create an attractive eco-tourism destination in Cebu maximizing the potential of Busay Hills, going to areas within the Transcentral highway going towards the western part of Cebu.

Baad said the group is going to institute a project that will develop an eco-tourism trail leading to the waterfalls, conceptualize adventure events, such as camping, mountain climbing, zip line, flower and vegetable picking, among others.

In coordination with different barangay captains in the communities located on the hilly lands of Cebu, the trail will have organized facilities which will include a road-stop or a small shopping and rest strip that will have small restaurants, rest rooms, stores of fresh vegetables, sweet-corn stands, coffee shop, restaurants, Cebuano delicacies, souvenirs, choices of organic lechon, among others.

The road-stop will also serve as stop-over area for motorists who are traveling to the highlands, aside from those that are availing the eco-tourism packages, she said.

A picnic area will also be identified, as soon as CCTC will be able to converge all the barangay executives to present the grand plan.

This will be another attraction offer of Cebu aside from the conventional city tours and the beaches. (FREEMAN)

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