Linking tourism and academe: Developing the potential of Isabela State University as the first academic ecotourism campus in the Philippines
Keywords:Linking Tourism, developing, ecotourism
The study assessed the status of Isabela State University in meeting the required criteria set by the national agencies in relation to standard requirements, in operating an eco-tourism site in the Philippines. Isabela State University (ISU) Cabagan campus has been in existence for over 40 years and in the last 5 years has employed over a thousand employees both academic and non-academic serving more than 45 thousand enrollees in its five (5) colleges/academic core. The proposed land use aimed to mobilize the students, faculty, administrators, and other staff to establish and develop a nature-friendly and true farm experience on the campus. A total of 455 respondents, consisting of four groups, were asked to rate the degree of importance of the cultural dimensions observed pertinent to the academic ecotourism status of ISU based on two standards. Results revealed a rating of “VERY HIGHLY COMPLIANT” according to the natural system in both standards used as benchmarks. The rest of the areas were rated as “HIGHLY COMPLIANT”. Corollary to this, several issues and concerns were raised by the various groups of respondents in meeting the challenges to being successful academic ecotourism camps, specifically in the areas of natural and cultural area focus; protection and management of the environment, culture, and indigenous knowledge and practices; education and ethics; visitor satisfaction and responsible marketing. However, the top concern raised was the availability of funds to finance the physical developments and other initiatives for the sustainability of the project. Anent to these concerns, a framework for academic ecotourism campus was proposed capitalizing on the vast underutilized resources of the institution, as well as its strong collaborative linkages and competent and capable human resource to augment the existing inventory considering the environmental, economic productivity, and socio-cultural impacts of becoming an educational venue about biodiversity, the ecosystem, and mother earth.