After 31 months of that devastating earthquake that hit the province, tourist arrivals in the province as well as in the other provinces in the region made a remarkable increase of 15 percent.
Regional Director Rowena Montecillo of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said that Bohol posted a remarkable increase starting August to December last year. Resorts, particularly in Panglao ,confirmed the influx of tourists during the last six months last year.
This increase recorded some 4 million foreign and local tourists visiting the region last year.
“Bohol maintains her charm as a destination,” the DOT official said during the “Meet The Press” of the Bohol Tri-Media Association (BTMA) held at Isla Di Francesco, a sand bar off Panglao last Thursday.
Montecillo said that the region has contributed much to the volume of tourists visiting the country with the domestic market now hitting the 56 million while the foreign market is targeted to reach 10 million within the next three years.
The attractiveness of Bohol as a destination was confirmed with the recent hosting of the 9th United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) executive training.
DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez personally flew to Bohol to welcome the delegates coming from 19 different countries who attended the three-day gab at South Palms-Panglao.
During an exclusive interview with Sec. Jimenez at Amorita Resort, he said thatÂ Bohol has a lot to offer. In fact, he ordered the tapping of a professional estate planner to make the master plan for the development of Anda town. He was convinced that Anda is a bright prospect for tourism development.
He urged the private sector to seriously plan on how to increase the spending of tourists while in the country.
Sec. Jimenez considers it as “sin of omission” if we fail to let the tourists spend all their pocket money intended to be spent during their stay here.
“Good cuisine, organized tours and attractive souvenir items are some of the basic things where tourists can spend their money on ” the DOT secretary said.
Sec. Jimenez expressed confidence that Bohol will continue to shine as a preferred destination especially with the construction of the new Bohol Airport in Panglao.
Bohol will surely contribute a good number of tourists in the tabulation of arrivals which he targets that foreign tourists should hit the 10 million level by 2016.
From the UNWTO meeting, Sec. Jimenez inspected the Dauis Church rehabilitation wortk.
He also met with City MayorÂ Baba Yap who presented the proposed Bohol Friendship Park at the Blood Compact in barangay Bool, this city.Â Sec, Jimenez vowed to support the project. In fact, through his representation, he will endorse the said projectÂ for funding by the national government.
GLOBAL TOURISM GAB
Beaming with pride, Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, side-by-side with Tourism Secretary Jimenez., welcomed delegates from 19 countries to the 9th United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) Executive Training.
This, due to the fact that Bohol was chosen as the Model for Community-based Tourism as evidenced, not only by the tour packages that are being offered to tourists; but also, because the province is now considered by UNWTO as the learning center for rehabilitation and recovery.
When what was dubbed by many as “The Great Bohol Eartnquake” hit the province on October 15, 2013 and left devastation in its wake, everyone wondered, especially the Boholanos, if this island paradise could be put back together again.
Even the province’s multi-awarded governor and considered by many of his colleagues as someone who never runs away from challenges, almost lost his equilibrium and was even almost tempted to wallow in despair for the experience was nerve-shattering to everyone.
But suddenly, when the shock wore off, Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, always true to form, was already envisioning bright ideas in his mind’s eye on how to turn things around to inspire his people who have lost so much.
Glad that Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. also shared the same thougths that time, the two tourism czars lost no time in turning the nerve-wracking Boholano experience into something positive, making sure that the people would only not learn from the experience, but most importantly, profit from it, despite the devastation, chaos and emotional trauma it brought.
The training program being held here aims to gather high level policy makers and representatives from the National Tourism Administration (NTA) of the Asia Pacific to discuss and formulate policies and strategies, as well as exchange ideas and experiences on the issues confronting tourism.
Likewise, the forum seeks to provide a better understanding of tourism trends in tourism management and will enable participants to improve their strategic tourism management skills and develop capacities on policy and strategy formulation and implementation.
With Gov. Chatto and Sec. Jimenez were DOT Regional Director Rowena Montecillo and Former Sec. Narzalina Lim.
Among the delegates are Hwang Hae Guk and Kim Baeho of UNWTO, Kura Tomoyoshi of RSOAP, DOT Executive Asst. Armand Lorenze Sapitan and BSTA Pres. Nursida Lim.
Sec. Jimenez considers Bohol as a monument to tourism business, although he attests that the situation was exactly the same even before the earthquake.
He cited Ubay’s milk processing and production and the Loboc River Cruise as good and profitable examples of community-based tourism.
Jimenez marvelled at how Ubay, considered as one of the poorest communities before, has climbed up the ladder and is now doing business with resorts through its milk production with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the DOT.
The Secretary also reveled at how our churches, as centers of community life and activities, are now undergoing restorations.
“A year ago, when I passed by Panglao and Dauis churches, they were still in shambles but now, everyone can see that things are being done; this means we are not only restoring culture but also, communities,” says Sec. Jimenez.
Hwang Hae Guk of UNWTO praised Bohol’s community-based development in tourism recovery and said that “this iconic training program of the Asia Pacific is a unique opportunity to bring us together and share our success stories.”
He praised the Filipinos’ resilient spirit for “despite countless devastations, you have handled it with fortitude.”
Kim Baeho, also of UNWTO, sees tourism as being given great effort in Bohol and is glad for this for the global tourism industry is now becoming a new growth engine for development, as what is also happening in the province.
Just a few days ago, Nepal was struck by. 7.9 magnitude earthquake and lost thousands of lives.
“It has experienced what Bohol suffered but to a larger extent” and Kim is asking everyone to offer their prayers for the grief-stricken country.
The governor expressed regret that because of what we are currently going through, Bohol can offer nothing as of this time but its people’s collective prayers.
Growing in importance everyday, UNWTO clearly understands that tourism exists only because humankind needs some kind of escape from reality; that it is not only because people enjoy tourism, but because it is needed.
There is even a kind of a growing tourism economy now called the “New Culture” where people travel just to get new ideas and concepts and the Secretary would like to post a challenge to Congress to decide on what kind of tourism these lawmakers would want to have and cultivate for the country. (with reports from JLV)