The Department of Tourism in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DOT-CAR) is urging stakeholders to capitalize on the growing trend of experiential tourism to boost return visits and enhance tourist experiences. Jovita Ganongan, DOT-CAR director, emphasized the importance of offering activities that allow tourists to actively participate and gain a personal feel for the region's unique places and cultural heritage.

"Let us not just offer the place," Ganongan said in a phone interview on Monday. "Let us aim to provide our tourists a different experience aside from just seeing our beautiful attractions. We want them to truly immerse themselves in the Cordillera way of life."

The region witnessed a remarkable rebound in tourism in 2023, welcoming 1.6 million visitors, nearly reaching the pre-pandemic record of 2.01 million tourists in 2019. Ganongan believes that by embracing experiential tourism, the region can further solidify its position as a premier destination and encourage repeat visits.

One example she cited is offering tourists the opportunity to engage in strap or loom weaving, allowing them to experience firsthand the intricate process of creating traditional fabrics. "They will even appreciate the fabrics or the apparel if they also put in effort for the creation of the product," Ganongan explained.

In addition to weaving, the director envisions a range of immersive experiences for tourists, including participating in Cordillera dances, chants, and donning traditional native attires, as well as sampling the region's famous tapuey (rice wine). These authentic cultural encounters, she believes, will leave a lasting impression on visitors and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the region's rich heritage.

Moreover, Ganongan highlighted the potential for tourists to participate in various agricultural activities, such as flower and fruit harvests, particularly for the renowned Sagada orange and La Trinidad, Benguet strawberries. "By getting their hands dirty and experiencing the hard work behind these iconic crops, visitors will gain a newfound respect for our local farmers and the bounty of our land," she said.

To further enhance the tourism experience, Ganongan emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts among stakeholders. "We are asking our operators to come up with loop tours," she explained, referring to the linking of provinces and sites within the region. This approach not only provides visitors with a comprehensive and well-rounded experience but also promotes the equitable distribution of tourism benefits across the Cordillera.

As the demand for authentic and immersive experiences continues to grow, the DOT-CAR remains committed to working closely with local communities, tour operators, and businesses to develop innovative and engaging offerings that showcase the region's unique cultural and natural attractions, while also ensuring the sustainable development and preservation of these treasures for generations to come.