Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, the aftermath
Tell the truth. Show that Central Visayas is safe.
This is one of the best ways to negate the negative impact of the Bohol clashes and travel advisories issued in the region, according to Joselito “Boboi” Costas, Cebu provincial tourism officer.
He said the government can invite travel agents and tour operators to Central Visayas, particularly to Cebu and Bohol, just to show how safe the region is.
“Let us identify who can best deliver the message. Then the message to be delivered must be specific,” he said.
Costas said one example is to present a very realistic and truthful look into the Abu Sayyaf crisis by producing maps that show how far the crisis area is from the frequently visited sites in the region.
He, however, said that the impact of the Bohol clashes and travel warnings would also be an opportunity not only to get things back where things were during pre-crisis, but it would also be an opportunity to build back better tourism packages.
He said travel agents could be provided with incentives for bringing tourists while also focusing on new features and benefits.
“Hotels, resorts and the transportation industry can perhaps add value to existing tour packages such as complimentary meals, free entrance, and free sightseeing,” said Costas.
Cebu and Bohol can also promote the twinning aggressively, he added.
Costas said private stakeholders could also tap the domestic market.
Almost 3 million of the 5 million who came to Central Visayas in the first 11 months of 2016 were local tourists, showing significant demand from this particular segment.
Data from the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) showed that the region welcomed close to 5 million tourists from January to November 2016.
Of this figure, 3.4 million visitors stayed in Cebu while 820,640 tourists visited Bohol.
Negros Oriental comes at third in terms of visitor volume with 632,223 and followed by Siquijor with 78,788.
The region’s top foreign market has consistently been Korea with a 43.29 percent share or a volume of 758,451 tourists during the covered period.
This was followed by Japan with 328,954, China with 210,450, USA with 169,193, and Australia with 54,425.
Looking on this figure, it is easy to conclude why Costas is pushing for more packages focusing on domestic tourists.
Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos) past president EdilbertoMendoza, on the other hand, said that only time could tell when the region would recover from these losses and would depend on how fast the government can normalize the situation in Bohol.
Business groups pitch in
Local business groups are, however, also trying to help the region recover from the negative effects wrought by the fact that terrorists believed to be on a kidnapping mission were able to infiltrate Bohol this month, even if state forces were able to nip this attempt in the bud.
Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), said they are planning to incorporate more marketing programs to address the impact of the events during the upcoming Tourism Summit in June.
“Before then, we will conduct consultative meetings with various tourism stakeholders,” Ng said.
The Cebu Travel and Tourism Summit will be held on June 16, with organizers targeting to have Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo as the summit’s main guest.
The event will feature business-to-business exchanges, a sharing platform for promotions regarding the latest travel technology, talks on marketing, tour guide learning programs, eco-tourism, health and wellness, and other tourism opportunities.
For Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Glenn Soco, what stakeholders can do is to continue promoting Cebu and the whole Philippines.
Soco said the chamber would encourage investors and businessmen, through its activities and advocacies, to move forward and continue with their business activities despite the Bohol events.
Tourism and investment promotions are top advocacies of the MCCI where Soco said they intend to make a serious push in the upcoming Mandaue Business Month in August.
“We see very minimal effects of the Bohol incident with the business and tourism climate. If ever there was, our government and the community was quick to react where we made the fastest recovery,” Soco added.
Meanwhile, Colliers International Group Inc., a global real estate services company, in a recent report about Cebu’s tourism industry, cited the travel advisories’ impact on the sector.
“The impact of travel advisories issued by a number of countries will likely have a short-term effect in the influx of tourists.
The long-term growth of tourism in the area will hinge on the swift resolution of safety issues by the government,” Colliers International said in its report.
The report also pointed to the completion of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport expansion in 2018 as one of the reasons the tourism industry in Cebu will continue to grow.
It also cited the other infrastructure projects that would attract tourists like the construction of the Cordova-Cebu bridge, and the proposed Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System.