Call made amid decline of visitor arrivals in 1st 4 months of the year
The private sector in Cebu encouraged the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT) to step up initiatives in promoting the region following the decline in the number of visitor arrivals here during the first four months of 2017.
According to preliminary data from the DOT in Central Visayas (DOT-7), tourist arrivals in Central Visayas slipped by 3.02 percent between January and April this year most likely as an effect of the travel advisories issued by other countries as a response to terrorism threats in the Philippines.
“The travel advisories really contributed to the drop in the number of tourist arrivals for the first quarter of 2017, and this drop may continue for the rest of the year because of the Marawi crisis and the lack of tourism-related initiatives from the government,” Edilberto Mendoza, past president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operation Specialists (Catos), told Cebu Daily News.
Central Visayas welcomed 2,000,714 tourists in the first four months of 2017, down 3.02 percent compared to the 2,063,053 during the same period of last year.
Visitor arrivals usually peak during the first five months of the year but events such as the encounter between government troops and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Bohol as well as earlier issuances of travel advisories were seen to have slightly pulled down the numbers.
The tourism agency recorded 5.95 million arrivals in Central Visayas last year and targets an increase of five percent for 2017, which could have been higher if not for the unfortunate events that happened during the first quarter of this year.
While Mendoza recognized government interventions aimed at countering the effects of earlier events, he said more can be done to prevent regional tourism figures from dropping further.
“I don’t actually feel the aggressiveness of our government with our tourism projects,” he said.
Among the DOT initiatives he said the agency should revisit are plans to change its tagline, the institutionalization of tour guiding so tour guides can be more competitive and competent, maintenance support for cultural and heritage sites, improvement of tourism infrastructure in the provinces, as well as a more aggressive advertising campaign.
The DOT earlier embarked on marketing efforts to cushion the impact of past events, beginning with the Dubai Travel Fair where they built up Bohol to tourists and buyers so the province could recover tourism receipt losses from major markets such as Japan, China and Korea.
Carlo Suarez, president of the Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), also called on the DOT to continue assuring tourists that it is safe to travel to Central Visayas.
“With the new regional director on board, hopefully there will be more initiatives to contradict such travel advisories. In the meantime, we need to encourage more local tourist patronage to augment the international arrival losses,” he said, referring to the new DOT-7 Director Joshur Judd Lanete II.
Lanete, however, said in a text message to Cebu Daily News that they are working on attracting more tourists to Central Visayas.
The DOT’s efforts included: supporting the familiarization of travel agents and media influencers from our source markets such as freediving champions Guillaume Neri’s freediving trip to the country and the Chinese officials familiarization tour; being present in important travel fairs such as the ITF and Cebu Travel Exchange; partnering with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to heighten preventive security measures and ease apprehensions of event organizers and would be travelers; and augmenting data collection on visitor statistics.
“With these, we intend to promote Central Visayas and the destinations herein and project the image that we have safe destinations. Also, we will be coordinating with tourism stakeholders such as TOURS7 & Catos when we implement product development projects on Farm, Faith-based, and Ecotourism in the region,” Lanete said.
While the decline of the total number of visitor arrivals in the region, Central Visayas’ top international markets still expanded with Taiwan growing the most at 110.75 percent and ranking sixth in terms of volume.
Korea remains at the top spot with 287,385, expanding by 5.26 percent; followed by Japan 137,421, registering a growth rate of 5.47 percent.