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Sinulog, Apec events to bring tourists back

By: - Senior Reporter / @agarciayapCDN
/ 03:57 PM January 01, 2014

Tourism in Central Visayas may have suffered a huge blow in the fourth quarter of 2013 but stakeholders see a lot of promise in 2014 for the region’s major revenue generating industry.

Hotel Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Cenelyn Manguilimotan believes that the October 15 earthquake and the November 8 supertyphoon are mere temporary setbacks.

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“Next year we will see a lot of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) groups from different countries coming here to check on the facilities in preparation for the APEC Summit that will open late next year,” Manguilimotan said.

Islands Group president and chief executive officer Jay Aldeguer said the year 2013 was “anti climactic” for the tourism industry but the factors that fueled growth in 2013 are still expected to trigger the same growth for 2014, such as the “open skies” policy.

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“The year started out very promising with airlines, both international and domestic taking aggressive moves to stimulate further travel to and within the Philippines. Target figures for tourist arrivals were on track and even exceeded for domestic travel. But the recent wave of calamities in the Visayas region, where tourism is strongest, has slowed down travel to these areas,” he said.

“Foreign airline players are now trying to compete directly with local players. The talks of upgrade in the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rating has also spurred more interest in the tourism industry in the Philippines. The upgrade would allow airlines from the country to expand and mount additional flights to the US and other international destinations. Also very encouraging are the added international flights by the local carriers. PAL has recently launched more flights to Australia and the UK while Cebu Pacific has launched their flights to the Middle East,” he added.

Aldeguer said the industry’s robust performance happened in the first two quarters of 2013 which showed a promising start.

“The recent earthquake and typhoon was a big blow to tourism in the region as well to the entire Philippines. Cebu and Bohol especially, both main tourism drawers, have taken a hit. Roads in Bohol as well as tourist attractions have been damaged while Cebu’s northern islands of Bantayan and Malapascua were also affected,” Aldeguer said.

Boracay, on the other hand, was not directly hit by the storm but has been getting several cancellations mainly from international visitors with electricity and Internet access became a challenge to Boracay, which was just declared top beach destination in the world three years in a row by top travel magazines.

POSITIVE IMPACT

Aldeguer and Manguilimotan agreed that the calamities also had positive impact in the industry as foreigners came for relief operations, getting an opportunity to see the unique beauty of the country.

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“We had a lot of foreign groups who stayed in our property. Some told us they’re definitely coming back for vacation. It somehow gave an opportunity for them to see Cebu which was the central hub for all relief operations,” Manguilimotan said.

Manguilimotan added that average occupancy rate for the first nine months this year is at 67 percent while resort properties had a high occupancy rate at 86 percent, which dropped to 25 to 35 percent after the calamities, as cited by Lapu-Lapu City tourism office manager Hembler Mendoza.

“The city hotels however benefited from the calamity because of the many foreign groups coming in so I think we will end the year with a high occupancy rate of at least 70 percent,” said Manguilimotan.

As of June this year, the region registered 1.7 million tourists, a 14.78 percent growth from that of the same period last year. Domestic travelers make up 60 percent of the total tourist arrivals with 1.05 million domestic travellers visiting different destinations in the region.

For foreign travellers, South Koreans remain the largest group with 257,998 visitors, growing by 27.8 percent. Japanese visitors followed with 98,851 tourists, then Americans with 58,207 visitors.

The fourth largest group, China, decreased by 24.58 percent with only 29,183 Chinese tourists as of June this year compared to 38,692 last year.

Manguilimotan said they have yet to see the impact of the calamities on Korean and Japanese tourists. “During the earthquake in October, we saw a lot of cancellations from the Korean and a lot of Japanese came but when the typhoon hit us in November, we also lost the Japanese group,” she said.

Looking forward, aside from the APEC Summit preparations that will start next year, Manguilimotan said they expect more people coming here for Sinulog this January.

As early as first week of December, Mangulimotan said they have already full bookings for Sinulog, a faster rate than in previous years.

“This is because most of those who were not able to come home after the calamities decided to come home, observe the religious Sinulog activity and gather with their relatives. This is going to be a more meaningful Sinulog to many,” said Manguilimotan.

She added that full bookings is not only observed in their property but in several other properties in the city as well.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure projects are also expected to fuel more tourism activities.

“The year 2014 looks promising. Just yesterday, one of the most high profile PPP (public-private partnership) projects of the government, the bidding of the Mactan International Airport has been deemed successful and was participated not only by the top conglomerates of the country but also by top international airport operators. This is indicative that we are on our way to promising years for travel in the Philippines. The passing of travel related policies and the serious plans to improve infrastructure all point to better years ahead,” Aldeguer said.

The most urgent need for the tourism industry to grow, he said, is infrastructure development like airports.

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