I've lived and traveled all around the world, and I've seen these work incredibly well to enrich communities from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, Vietnam to Thailand, and many others. When making this list, I was cognizant of not just binging in armies of tourists, but these three things:
-Making sure these ideas generated income for locals and revenue for Dumaguete
-Benefiting the daily lives of locals, too
-Attracting the right kind of tourists (not young cheap partyers or sexpats)
Here are my 5 things we can do to turn Dumaguete into a world-class tourist destination:
I’ve only lived in Dumaguete for eight months, so I’m still learning about the incredible things to do and see here. But imagine how lost you would feel if you were first stepping off of the plane/bus/ferry into our fair city. Too many visitors flounder around and waste time trying to piece together information from various Facebook pages, old TripAdvisor reports, or just rumors.
Now imagine if a bright, shiny, new tourist info booth was here to guide them. Tourists could get valuable (and correct!) information, as well as help with booking hotels, excursions, or even fairs, festivals, cultural events, nightlife, and restaurants.
Even locals and expats could check in at this tourist info booth (there would be an online version – sort of like Craigslist.org) and find out what’s going on.
Tourists HEART taking photos! Filipinos and foreigners alike often seek out places just for the photo op. In fact, there are 95 million photos shared on Instagram every single day (about 87% of which are girls taking selfies on the beach.) So why don’t we make Dumaguete even more photogenic for travelers?
We can encourage home and business owners to paint with bright colors, promote a flower-planting campaign so our city becomes known as the Philippines’s floral city, or add a few colorful “Welcome to Dumaguete” signs or other props for photo takers.
We can let our imaginations run wild, but the simple fact is that more fun photo ops = more tourism.
No offense to the tourist police we have, but rules, ordinances, and laws need to be enforced. When someone drinks in public (or kicks a dog) along the Boulevard, give them a ticket (or haul them to jail). When they litter, smoke, or become a public nuisance, give them a ticket. Hold foreigners and locals to the same standard, as we shouldn't let a few people make others feel uncomfortable or unsafe, spoiling the perception of Dumaguete as a city of and for gentle people.
From the Manjuyod Sandbar to Apo Island, Siquijor to the Twin Lakes, Casaroro Falls and Tierra Alta, we have an abundance of local treasures in and around Duma. But these points of interest can be downright difficult to get to, especially for tourists.
A tourist shuttle would solve that problem. A single jeepney dedicated to driving to and from these destinations every day on a set schedule (it can even leave from the tourist booth we’re setting up) would be an amazing resource for tourists and locals, alike. I know I’d use it!
This is our opus. Not only would it turn Dumaguete into one of the top destinations in Asia, but it would be imminently more enjoyable for everyone who lives here. There's no reason why big trucks and buses should be ripping down the otherwise placid Boulevard, spewing smoke, causing an ear-shattering racket, and ready to flatten any pedestrian that's unfortunate enough to be in the way. Instead, all buses and trucks will need to take the national road except for set delivery hours.
Even better, on nights and weekends, we’re going to ban all traffic from the Boulevard and open it up for vendors to set up tents, booths, and kiosks. Restaurants can come down and offer their food, artists and craftsman can display their work, musicians can play, and the whole area will turn into a festival-like atmosphere.
Having a vibrant, fun, and family-oriented night market along the Boulevard will attract droves of tourists to Dumaguete, generating revenue to pay for everything on this list - and then some!