What pandemic? Sarangani beach resorts, hotels fully-booked for Holy Week
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Resorts in the province of Sarangani are now fully booked for the Holy Week in a sign of tourism recovery rare in many places still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
April Marjorie Rudes, Sarangani tourism officer, said on Wednesday (March 31) that most hotels are fully booked, too.
Tourist arrivals had been picking up since the last quarter of 2020 and spiked for the Holy Week, Rudes said.
Since a week ago, resort facilities in the province have been jampacked with advance bookings, she said.
An emerging favorite spot in the province is the Alta Vista Resort in Alabel town, which attract bikers and urban dwellers with a picturesque view of the city and Sarangani Bay.
Resort operators, however, are not accepting “walk-in” clients to heed protocol set by local health authorities since 2020, Rudes said.
Tourists will have to show booking slips and contact tracing QR codes at checkpoints before they are allowed entry into the province.
Strict health and safety protocols, however, did not discourage tourists from entering the province as visitor arrivals surged to 498,131 in the last quarter of 2020, when the province started to open following months of pandemic lockdown.
But the province saw a 71 percent drop in arrivals from 1.6 million tourists in 2019 because of the pandemic. Rudes, however, said the 186,770 arrivals in the first two months of 2021 “looked encouraging.”
The province’s biggest tourist drawer, Sarangani Bay Festival set in May, is still a no-go, said Rudes.
“We are not talking about it, much less plan of having it this year,” Rudes told the Inquirer.
She said officials in the province would rather use the money for the event, dubbed as Mindanao’s largest beach party, for pandemic response.
Aside from a unified protocol issued by the provincial government, each town in the province has its own set of guidelines to ensure the safety of residents and guests.
In the tourist town of Glan where vacationers usually flock to Gumasa, a stretch of beach with white powdery sand, resort owners face stiff penalties should they violate strict health protocols and regulations imposed by the local government.
Glan mayor Dr. Vivien Yap said she would shut down and cancel business permits of erring resort facilities.
In 2020, Yap ordered the month-long shutdown of a popular beach hotel at the village of Taluyafor for twice hosting a mass gathering that exceeded capacity limits.
Rudes said teams from the police and local government would be roaming to make sure that facilities would observe basic health protocols of wearing faces masks and face shields, physical distancing and others.
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