Bohol province, located in the Central Visayas region, is the tenth largest of the Philippines’ 7,641 islands. With a main island surrounded by 72 smaller islands, Bohol is now one of the country’s most prominent tourism destinations. The province is best known for its tourism circuits involving one of the world’s smallest and most endangered primates – the Philippine tarsier – as well as the unique limestone formations of the Chocolate Hills, its white sand beaches and other natural wonders. Bohol is historically and culturally significant, with its Spanish-era heritage churches.
Prior to its development as a major tourism destination, the province was characterized by widespread poverty, low incomes and high out-migration rates. Bohol was a member of Club 20 – the 20 poorest provinces of the Philippines – and a hotbed of communist insurgency, hosting the general headquarters of the Communist Party in the Central and Eastern Visayas. To address these issues, the Provincial Government of Bohol decided to pursue ecotourism as a form of regional development for environment-friendly and community-based economic growth. This decision was based on the influence of good governance practice, province-wide stakeholder consultations involving local communities, and the province’s inclusion as one of the key sites in the Philippines’ National Ecotourism Strategy. This led to the establishment of strong partnerships both within and outside the province. As such, provincial tourism stakeholders gained the skills to manage continued and sustainable tourism growth.