The tourism industry in Central Visayas is taking a beating as the negative effects of the encounter between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Bohol as well as travel advisories issued by various countries last week are finally being felt.
Stakeholders, however, remain optimistic that these effects will not be long-lasting.
Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), estimated that the region stands to lose more than P80,000 a day due to the suspended tour offerings in Bohol.
“You will get a better idea of the ‘cancellation losses’ from hotels and resorts where room cancellations begin,” she told Cebu Daily News, adding that tours are only a small component of industry revenue.
She said regular Bohol tour package rates range from P5,000 to P8,000 per person with an estimated 100 tourists, both domestic and foreign, being catered to every day.
On peak days, earnings may reach P500,000 to P800,000 daily, said Queblatin.
As a precaution, Catos members stopped offering Bohol day tours after the firefight between the joint police-military forces and the ASG in the town of Inabanga last April 11.
While Inabanga is not considered a tourism destination and is far from areas frequented by tourists, Queblatin earlier said this was the group’s “proactive stance” amid the circumstances.
“But room cancellations into Cebu will mean more than these figures,” she said.
Also last week, various countries including the US, United Kingdom, Canada, China and South Korea issued travel advisories warning their citizens about the dangers of traveling to Central Visayas, particularly to Cebu and Bohol, due to threats of terrorism and kidnapping.
Security officials, nonetheless, have assured the general public that the region remains safe after the ASG’s plans to conduct kidnapping activities were foiled in the firefight that ended up with a death toll of nine, five of whom were members of the terrorist group, three military men and a police officer.
Rona Sato, area communications manager of BE Resorts, said BE Grand Resort in Bohol has noted 35 room cancellations since last week up to today, most of which were by Chinese nationals.
There were no cancellations for BE Resort Mactan, she said.
“As per Bohol Tourism Office, it’s business as usual,” she said in a text message.
Panglao Bluewater Beach Resort on the island town of Panglao in Bohol also observed a 4-percent drop in its occupancy last week, following the advisory from the South Korean government asking its citizens not to travel to Bohol.
Eric Monsanto, Bluewater Resorts marketing and communications manager, said most of the cancellations were by fully independent Korean travelers.
“In the overall picture, we are still optimistic that this will not make a big dent on tourist arrivals in Bohol,” he said.
Maribago Bluewater in Mactan, on the other hand, continues to enjoy high occupancy rates, said Monsanto, as Cebu is not really affected by the advisories.
“Business is good right now,” he added.
Occupancy rates stand at 88 percent and 100 percent for Panglao and Maribago, respectively.
Following reports of the incident in Bohol, online bookings from countries such as Korea and Japan dropped for JPark Island Resort and Waterpark in Lapu-Lapu City.
Its President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Uy noted, however, that those earlier booked with them did not cancel their bookings.
“There were more Japanese guests booking than Koreans when the news broke out,” he said.