Cebu tourism gets major boost

By Morexette Erram |June 29,2017 - 10:48 PM

P/Supt. Reynaldo Piañar, the police regional pastoral chaplain, blesses with holy water the government security forces during a send-off ceremony at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command headquarters in Camp Lapu-Lapu before their deployment to various areas in the region to secure the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders’ meeting next month. Provincial officials are optimistic that the meetings will attract more tourists to Cebu.

Provincial authorities expect a big boost in Cebu’s tourism industry next week as senior ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) once again gather in the province for a meeting on July 1–7.

The Cebu Provincial Tourism Office is taking on the opportunity to step up Cebu’s tourism industry especially with recent data from the regional Department of Tourism (DOT-7) showing an increase of tourist arrivals in Cebu and the whole Central Visayas region.

For Cebu Provincial Tourism Office chief Boboy Costas, the numbers from DOT-7 were proof that Cebu remained as a top, favorite tourist destination in the country — for both local and foreign tourists — despite foreign trip advisories warning their nationals against travel to some towns of southern Cebu.

“With Asean meetings drawing near, Cebu and the entire Central Visayas, for that matter, has a strong statement to tell. We’re safe, and we have everything anyone can ask for,” Costas told reporters at the Provincial Capitol yesterday morning.

Last June 28, DOT-7 released their statistics on tourist arrivals in Central Visayas for the year 2016. Data showed that an increase of 29.17 percent was registered from 2015 to 2016.

In 2015, 4.6 million tourists were recorded to have visited the region. The figures jumped to 5.95 million in 2016.

Cebu is still the leader when it comes to attracting both local and foreign tourists, and had welcomed 4.17 million out of the 5.95 million tourists who visited the region last year.

“The statistics from DOT and the circumstances affecting tourism resulted to (sic) an image showing Cebu as a strong player when it comes to tourism. This is a great opportunity to boost local tourism in line with the Asean meetings,” Costas stated.

In turn, the tourism officer requested the government, the private sector and the communities to create a collaborative crisis communication network as a means to sustain Cebu’s image as a favorite tourist destination.

Safety is priority

Costas stressed the importance of a collaborative crisis communication network to ensure peace and order during the visit of Asean senior ministers even though Cebu is safe from terror threats for now.

“What Central Visayas should focus more is on collaboration between communities, the private sector and the government to expedite our initiatives aimed at preventing possible terror attacks,” he added.

Costas said the difficulties their office encountered when travel advisories were up on some towns of southern Cebu served as basis for his proposal to launch a crisis communication network.

“(In 2016), it took us three days to disseminate information to resort owners and officials from the local government units on what was going on. Had there been a network of resorts, hotels, private individuals and LGUs, everything could have been easier and faster. It could have been easy to call a meeting between all affected stakeholders,” said Costas.

Citing terror threats, the US Embassy issued advisories for US citizens not to travel to Dalaguete, Santander and Oslob in southern Cebu last November 2016.

Last April, a few days before members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) arrived in Inabanga, Bohol, which resulted in a gun battle with government forces until the terrorists were subdued, the US Embassy also issued a travel advisory in Central Visayas, particularly Cebu and Bohol, warning against possible terror threats and kidnapping.

Favorite destination

As to why Cebu remained a favorite destination despite the recent skirmishes in nearby Bohol, Costas cited the increasing number of flight routes with Cebu serving as a transfer point or destination.

“There are more flights coming in and out of Cebu. These flights actually contribute to the tourism industry of Cebu. We have a large hub, and it’s growing continuously,” added Costas.

The recent attack by an armed man in Resorts World Manila in Pasay City and the continuing battle between government forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City also led tourists to consider Cebu as an alternative destination when in the Philippines, said Costas.

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