Amid UK advisory, tourism sector’s recovery to continue

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva October 26,2017 - 10:47 PM

THE local tourism industry has become more resilient to these kinds of developments and will continue to recover.

Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), said this amid the latest UK travel advisory warning citizens about traveling to the southern part of the Philippines, including portions of Cebu province, due to “threat of terrorism.”

Queblatin downplayed the UK advisory as she noted that Cebu had consistently shown that it is a safe place to visit and that the government is in full control.

“The liberation of Marawi and the continuing coverage of Asean meetings ongoing in Bohol are positive signs that the security issue is addressed,” she said.

Queblatin also said that travel advisories had been there before and yet the visitors continue to come to Cebu.

In a warning issued on October 24, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised its citizens against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between military and insurgent groups.

Furthermore, the FCO also warned against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camiguin, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian, due to the threat of terrorism.

Edilberto Mendoza, Catos past president, said that this is a new challenge for the local tourism industry that it could hurdle.

Mendoza also called on the community to unite in prayer and to prove to the international community that Cebu is indeed a safe place to visit.

Tourism in Central Visayas took a heavy blow early this year following several advisories issued by countries such as the US, UK, Japan and Korea since late 2016 as well as the firefight between government troops and members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group last April.

Tour operators were forced to suspend day tours to Bohol, risking losses of up to P800,000 a day while hotels and resorts saw a drop in occupancy as well as booking cancellations from foreign guests.

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.

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 events that happened during the first quarter of this year.

The DOT said in an earlier statement it was optimistic that the upward growth of the country’s international tourist arrivals, registered at 11.4 percent for the first quarter of 2017, will likely continue throughout the year as it anticipates over P600 billion in infrastructure investments alongside aggressive marketing efforts and heightened security all over the Philippines.

Despite challenges at the start of the year, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo said the Philippines remains a perennial destination for tourists, with international arrivals breaching the million mark as early as February of this year.

“The Philippines is too enticing a destination to keep people away. With the government’s continued efforts yielding international investors’ confidence, people will still come,” Teo said.

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