Negros Occidental: Ready for the World
As a single entity out of the over 3 million population in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines, it may seem that there’s nothing much or very little I can do that can make a difference for my home province. But the proverbial pen is mighty indeed because the stories I have shared, whether they are on paper or online, have reached countries like Zambia, Myanmar, Qatar, Denmark, and Greece, to name a few. It may be a small dent but I realized that it can still create an impression that would help put Negros Occidental on the map.
Negros Occidental is home to many interesting attractions, which I have listed down in this blog post. Bacolod City, its capital, has a mix of old structures and modern establishments, with a lot of development sprouting in various parts of the city.
The cities of Talisay and Silay are known for their heritage houses and museums. The cities of Cadiz, Sagay and Escalante at the north and Sipalay City, Cauayan and Hinobaan at the south are visited because of their beaches and snorkelling sites. San Carlos City, Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto are popular because of their mountainous terrain. Kabankalan City, La Carlota City, and Bago City have heritage, waterfalls and caves. There are still many hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Even a native like me has not fully explored the Western part of this sock-shaped island of Negros.
For us to promote Negros Occidental to the rest of the world, there are a few things that need to be done. It is important that we identify its strong points and hone them by:
- Preserving history, art and culture – from century-old architecture to songs and stories handed down to generations, we need to retain our authentic history, art and culture amidst the changing landscape brought about by globalization. Food is a significant aspect of this as it represents all three. Top-of-mind for most travelers when they roam Negros Occidental is the richness of flavors that entice their palate. We are also a people of exciting disposition as evident from our colorful festivals.
- Protecting our natural resources – lush forests and abundant marine life are present in this province. As we prepare to welcome travelers from all corners of the world, we need to ensure that we have safety nets in place that will protect and sustain these gifts from nature.
- Supporting the local economy, government projects and local talents – infrastructure, human capabilities and efficient systems will attract people naturally to our boundaries. We have to continually work on this as we build up the name of the province to the rest of the globe.
To get the word out there about Negros Occidental, it should be a good mix of online and offline methods, incorporating traditional and new media.
1.) Influencing the influencers
It was my personal experience that apart from writing and posting about the province in my blog and social media accounts, another effective way is to encourage influencers to visit the province. I have a few blogger friends and international colleagues who have made a trip here and have passed on the good news that is Negros Occidental to their family, friends, readers and followers. It’s like creating a ripple that has a multiplier effect. I also join contests and international travel groups, such as the Kerala Blog Express and the now-defunct Lonely Planet blogsherpas, to network and make other bloggers and social media personalities know about my home.
2.) Offline promotion: relationship matters!
On top of using traditional and new media, offline promotions also work. I make friends whenever I travel because it’s my way to introduce my country and province to foreigners. I believe that each one of us is an ambassador of Negros Occidental, and our warm disposition and sweet smiles can start a conversation with other travelers. They have to feel the friendliness of the people behind the beautiful images they see on social media.
3.) Highlighting development
In addition to the natural and cultural attractions of the province, it is also good to highlight the current and upcoming developments to excite travelers. One place, for example, is the Northill Gateway where the Bacolod Welcome Marker is built and the Northill Town Center will soon rise. More and more attractions in the province are gracing newspaper and magazine pages, as well as blog and social media posts, every now and then. On the other hand, progress should consider always sustainable development, wherein along with new edifices, nature should still be given consideration, something that property and development company Megaworld Corporation always keep in mind.
4.) Quantity and quality: MICE initiatives
Inviting quality travelers to the province can contribute to a sustainable stream of tourists. However, it would be better to strategically have a good quantity of visitors that the city can take in. As a former writer of Singapore-based Biz Events Asia (formerly micenet Asia) magazine, I have come to understand the thriving MICE industry in the Asian region. Companies, organizations and agencies that partake in meetings, incentives, conferences and events bring in a huge contribution to the local economy. Highlighting the facilities and capabilities of the province to host MICE initiatives will make Negros Occidental a preferred location for such endeavors.
It looks more exciting in this part of the Philippines. I wonder how it would be five or 10 years down the road. What kinds of stories will unfold by then? Remember that Negros Occidental is the Land of Sweet Surprises. Definitely, these are surprises people should never miss.