Plea to tourists: Don’t call off trips
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. is encouraging all Filipinos to push through with their vacation plans especially to Cebu and Bohol to help the tourism industry in these areas recover.
“It will really help if everyone doesn’t cancel their vacations. Continue to travel because that’s the only way we can help the industry,” said Jimenez, who was in Cebu last Thursday after visiting Bohol.
Jimenez assured tourists that two critical areas for tourism in Bohol and Cebu are still there and have not been affected that much, although Bohol tours will have to forego the church visits, which are the ones greatly affected by last Tuesday’s earthquake.
“There are two critical areas, which are the infrastructure like the airports and seaports and the tourism products. Both of these are still there. We are doing checks in all of the sites and have anything that needs fixing fixed,” said Jimenez, whose first stop in his Cebu visit was at Fort San Pedro, which was also damaged by the quake.
Jimenez said that a “disciplined” restoration is needed especially for heritage sites like Fort San Pedro and the Basilica del Sto. Niño.
Despite this, he said he’s confident of hitting this year’s tourism target.
Jimenez added that at the end of September, tourist traffic in the country is already at 3.2 million, over half of the target of 5.5 million this year.
“We are still confident that we can hit our target although we expect a momentary interruption, but hopefully we shall see this recover and go on normal operations soon,” he said.
Central Visayas is a major contributor to the national tourism industry.
According to the DOT, as of June, 1.7 million tourists had already visited the region.
The beaches are the best tourism product to enjoy in Bohol for now as the Chocolate Hills is not yet accessible, said Peter Dejaresco, Bohol Tourism Commission head.
Dejaresco said the private sector and local officials in Bohol are still finalizing alternative routes to reach Chocolate Hills.
“It’s business as usual in Panglao island and people needs to know that. Dumaluan Beach for aquasports, Alona Beach still offers the same ‘mini Boracay’ feel,” he said.
The Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort is also operating normally.
“We have 54 rooms here and we have at least 10 guests which is lower than my projected 40 percent occupancy rate. It’s because of the earthquake and we need to make people know that it is very safe here in Panglao. The seaports and airports are open,” said Rhyz Buac, Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort general manager.
During his Fort San Pedro visit, Jimenez also met some tourists from Spain, Romania, and South Korea.
They told Jimenez that they pushed through with their visit to Cebu because they believed that it’s still safe to go around Cebu.
Romanian Calin Balga, 28, who arrived in Cebu on Wednesday said he was proceeding to Bohol on Friday and then will come back to Cebu to swim with the whale sharks in Oslob.
“Well, we heard about the earthquake. Who hasn’t? But I’m still going to Bohol. Why won’t I? I’m brave. I can do it,” he said.
The quake, however, has affected the tourist traffic in Fort San Pedro.
“Yesterday, we were open but not a single tourist came. Today is better but a far cry from the average 1,000 tourists we get everyday here,” said Erwin dela Cerna, Fort San Pedro
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