International cruise ship visits Visayas, boosts tourism
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — An international cruise ship carrying at least 500 foreign tourists and crew docked in Bohol province and Kalanggaman Island in Leyte province last week, helping tourism-related businesses earn as they slowly recover from the impact of travel and health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Silver Shadow, a luxury ship based in Monaco, first dropped anchor on Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte, before proceeding to Bohol on Feb. 11.
At least 228 guests and 295 crew members were on board the ship — the highest number of foreign tourists to visit Eastern Visayas in a single day since travel restrictions were lifted by the government last year.
The tourists, mostly Americans and Europeans, were given the chance to enjoy Kalanggaman Island which is known for its white sandbar and clear waters.
Karina Rosa Tiopes, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director in Eastern Visayas, said they were happy that the ship visited the island to help jump-start the arrival of more foreign guests to the region.
The foreigners were treated to local delicacies and traditional song and dance performances in a fiesta-like atmosphere.
“We knew we could give the best we could. But the words of thanks, appreciation, and such superlative compliments from the Silver Shadow cruise ship guests showed beyond doubt that the Eastern Visayas tourism industry can deliver above par,” she said.
Tiopes also expressed gratitude to tour operators for their support in promoting the region’s tourism by inviting the international travel cruise ship.
DOT data showed that 59,920 foreign travelers visited Eastern Visayas in 2019, or a year before the pandemic was declared.
The following year, only 13,023 foreigners visited the region and 19,125 in 2022.
After leaving Kalanggaman Island, the cruise ship proceeded to Bohol where guests toured the province’s prime destinations, such as the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River, centuries-old churches, and white sand beaches.
Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado, Tagbilaran City Mayor Jane Yap, and local tourism officials welcomed the guests.
Aumentado said the return of “cruise tourism” in Bohol will spark the interest of tourists to visit the province.
“It is an opportunity for Bohol to shine. This cruise ship is a welcome development since it can be a breakthrough for us to be part of the cruise ship loop. It will help promote Bohol,” he said.
Cruise tourism in Bohol started in 2005 with the visit of Swan Hellenic’s Minerva. Since then, cruise ships, such as MS Europa 2, L’Austral, and MS The World, regularly made stops in Bohol.
The pandemic-related community lockdowns and mobility restrictions crippled the country’s tourism industry in 2020. Bohol that year welcomed only 177,341 tourists from a high of 1.5 million visitors in 2019.
The figures went up slightly, at 178,656, in 2021, the second year of the pandemic. Data from the Bohol Tourism Office showed tourist arrivals from January to September 2022 increased to 241,341.
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