Chocolate Hills not ready to fully reopen as Bohol welcomes tourists

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Chocolate Hills not ready to fully reopen as Bohol welcomes tourists

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The town of Carmen, home of the province’s top tourism draw the Chocolate Hills, is not yet ready to welcome the general public at the world-renowned hill range’s complex in time for the reopening of the province to leisure travelers on Tuesday while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc the world over.

Carmen Mayor Jun Toribio on Monday said that they were still set to conduct discussions regarding the possible full reopening of the Chocolate Hills Complex which may not happen until “next year.”

“Even our Bohol tourism nag-encourage na g’yud sa atong mga local tourists na e-open na ang atong mga tourist destination pero sa Chocolate Hills Complex mura’g magtan-aw sa lang ta og unsa g’yud angay, mag-meeting pa,” said Toribio.

Tourists in the province’s tourism bubble however may visit the Chocolate Hills but prior arrangements have to be made by the Bohol Tourism Office (BTO) with the Carmen local government unit (LGU).

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The mayor explained that they will still have to discuss how to pay the complex’s employees if they resume full operations considering that there is still no assurance that tourists will actually visit Bohol amid the pandemic.

“Kadtong pag hire sa mga empleyado didto unya wala pud tay mosulod na mga turista since March wala na tay income didto so dili pa pud ta makasugakod pud pagkakaron na kadaadlaw mag-sweldo ta sa atong mga empleyado then wala tay arrival,” he said.

The popular tourist destination’s administration meanwhile has started the renovation of the complex’s restaurant also contributing to the LGU’s decision to hold off the reopening of the site.

Are tourists arriving?

Bohol initially reopened its doors to visitors, particularly groups for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) activities, weddings and other gatherings on November 15, but this failed to generate arrivals.

The BTO last week reported that it was expecting some 50 tourists to be arriving Tuesday in time for the reopening of destinations to leisure or non-group travelers in Bohol, which welcomed over 1.5 million tourists in 2019 based on data from the Department of Tourism.

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The World Tourism Organization (WTO), under the United Nations, projected that global tourism will only start to overcome the current slump in the third quarter of next year.

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“A majority of experts sees a rebound in international tourism in 2021, in particular by the third quarter 2021, while around 20% expects it to occur only in 2022,” the WTO said.

The WTO also reported that recovery of the tourism industry heavily depends on factors such as travel restrictions, virus containment and consumer confidence.

“Experts consider travel restrictions as the main barrier weighing on the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence,” it added in its report.

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While the Philippines has been easing quarantine measures, it continues to record over a thousand new cases each day.

Based on data from the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the Philippines is the top 28 country in the world with the most number of COVID-19 cases with a total of 450,733 recorded infections.

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Meanwhile, Metro Manila, where Bohol sources a bulk of its local tourists, remained the country’s COVID-19 hotspot.

Although the Duterte government continues to grapple with the high number of new cases each day, the tourism department has been heavily promoting the reopening of tourism in popular destinations such as Bohol and Boracay.

The government has been mainly pinning its hopes on the arrival of vaccines to Philippine shores to resolve its health woes but the start of actual vaccinations in the third-world country remains uncertain with majority of the stocks prepositioned to go to world superpowers such as the US and UK. (A. Doydora)

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