‘Make or break event’ for Cebu sports tourismBy Aileen Garcia-Yap
Cebu Daily News
Tourism stakeholders said today’s turnout of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 triathlon event will define Cebu’s future in sports tourism.
“It’s a make or break for us and we hope that we are ‘all systems go’ today and participants go home happy because we can use this as leverage to attract more international events in Cebu,” said former tourism undersecretary Phineas Alburo.
Most hotels and resorts in Mactan Island where majority of the action takes place are 100 percent occupied by different teams and Ironman enthusiasts from all over the world.
Resorts like Plantation Bay Resort and Spa are fully booked this time, general manager Efren Belarmino said.
He said their resort hosted an international lawn tennis tournament last year.
Belarmino said Cebu has a lot to offer for sports tourism as evidenced by the island hopping done by tourists and athletes long after the event had ended.
Belarmino said Cebu only needs to improve more on infrastructure and safety to make it more convenient for the tourists and encourage them to come back for more.
Islands Group chairman Jay Aldeguer said it’s high time for Cebu to position itself as a sports and fitness destination because Cebuanos have been extremely health and fitness conscious in recent years.
“You see groups of bikers including kids biking even at midnight. We have runs every weekend. This is a phenomenon not common in other places. Plus Cebu is very conducive for these kind of outdoor sports and activities,” Aldeguer said.
Alburo said all organizers in today’s event should strive to make the event a success so that Cebu can expect more tourists to visit the province.
Jenny Franco, National Association of Independent Travel Agencies Cebu Chapter president, said travel operators, tour guides, restaurants and hotel operators should maximize their services and offerings for this event.
“It’s not all the time that we get exposure like this. We should make the most of it so that the tourists will have nothing else to say but praises for Cebu,” Franco said.
Hans Hauri, Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu president, said Cebu stakeholders in the public and private sector should come together to support big ticket events like this , including boxing.
“Sports tourism is all about branding. Cebu, both provincial and local governments must unite to bid for hosting these major international events. Build up the name of Cebu and assist with appropriate infrastructure,” Hauri said.
The Ironman 70.3 triathlon event was held in Camarines Sur for three years, a turning point for the province’s growth in tourist arrivals which catapulted the province as the top destination in the country 2010, beating Manila and Cebu.
In 2010, Camarines Sur almost doubled their tourism traffic from 1.56 million in 2009 to 2.33 million in 2010 beating Manila with only 2.3 million tourist arrivals that year and Cebu with only 1.7 million that year.
“All we need to do is package it, put in place the support infrastructure and aggressive promotion,” said NAITAS chairman emeritus Robert Lim Joseph.
Joseph said they will soon be producing an audiovisual material for the tour guides in Cebu to be headed by former tourism regional director Patria Aurora Roa.