GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – Tourism stakeholders in Mindanao will gather here next week to discuss various challenges affecting the industry as well as fresh strategies in promoting the region amid its continuing peace and order problems.
Michelle Lopez-Solon, Region 12 tourism council chairperson, said at least 100 top tourism players have signified to attend the 2013 Mindanao Tourism Congress, which is slated on Sept. 28 at the Sarangani Highlands Resort and Hotel here.
She said the event, which will coincide with the region’s tourism week celebration, will be graced by officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT), national leaders, foreign and local tourism industry executives.
“This will be venue for us to look deeper into issues and concerns affecting the tourism industry here in Mindanao and initiate steps to raise them to concerned government officials and agencies,” she said.
Solon cited the need to counter the impact of the peace and order problems in Zamboanga City, specifically the siege staged by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
She acknowledged that the problems in Zamboanga might eventually affect others areas in Mindanao in terms of perception and tourist arrivals.
“We need to counter this by promoting the good side of Mindanao. One bad story negates 20 good stories so we really need to publish more good stories,” she said.
During the congress, Solon said they will discuss the national government’s tourism development plan and related policies being pushed by the DOT and President Benigno S. Aquino III.
She said local tourism stakeholders specifically need to “strategize Mindanao’s integration into the plan.”
In their past gatherings, Solon said they were able to make some gains for some of their concerns, among them the rationalization of regulations for the tourism transportation sector and the integration of tourism subjects in the basic education.
She said they were able to convince airline companies serving the Mindanao routes to provide better incentives to local travel agencies so they could compete with the increasingly popular online booking facilities.