Number of foreign visitors to Samal doubles in 2014

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 August) — The number of foreign visitors to Samal Island in 2014 doubled from the previous year and the Samal Tourism Office intends to keep this increase to continue by taking spotlight in the upcoming Visit Davao Fun Sale (VDFS).

Genrose Tecson, chair of the Samal Island Tourism Office said that the potential of their island as a tourism destination lies in how it’s able to meld adventure and relaxation together.

Data from their office revealed that in 2013, 6,931 foreign visitors went to the island for day tours. This doubled in 2014 with the traffic increasing to 12,242.

Samal also noted a spike in tourist arrivals which increased from 337,794 day tour arrivals in 2013 to 423,459 in 2014.

Tourists take a dip to beat the summer heat at Hagimit Waterfalls Resort on Wednesday (1 April 2015) in Barangay Peñaplata in Samal Island, Davao del Norte. The nature resort is one of the tourist attractions in the island. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco
Tourists take a dip to beat the summer heat at Hagimit Waterfalls Resort on Wednesday (1 April 2015) in Barangay Peñaplata in Samal Island, Davao del Norte. The nature resort is one of the tourist attractions in the island. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco

Overnight tourists or those who spend more than a day in the island increased from 187,973 in 2013 to 256,605 in 2014. In 2014, 17,208 foreigners had overnight stays in the island. Adding to this number were the 239,397 local tourists who also had overnight stays.

Tecson said that according to interviews by the Department of Tourism (DOT), Samal Island remains to be a destination that most visiting tourists, local and foreign alike, have in their itinerary when visiting Davao.

More than the beaches, Tecson said she is happy that their community-based eco-tourism packages, which have been available since last year, are finally gaining recognition by DOT.

These tour packages, initiated by the local folks themselves, will be among the highlights of the 2016 VDFS. This “Samal agri-cultural tour” covers rice farming experiences, a trip to Mangongawong Falls, guided snorkeling and horseback riding, and interactions and visits to a village of the Samal tribe.

A vanishing island tour, which comprises trips to Sanipaan Sand Bar and a mangrove area is also being developed for VDFS.

Other Samal eco-tourism and island tours include inland tours to a beach resort, a dairy farm, the Monfort Batcave and Hagimit Falls. Talicud Island will also be included with activities like swimming and snorkeling at various island destinations like the Coral Garden, Babusanta, Angel’s Cove, Mansud Wall, and the Giant Clam Sanctuary.

There are currently 70 resorts registered under Samal’s tourism office.

Tecson said that by the end of the year, their department is hoping to achieve a 20-percent increase in tourist arrivals from 2014. She said that their office is continuously developing destinations in the island. More of these will soon be announced to bring in even more tourists.

As for security, Tecson said Samal is “very safe.” Security personnel like their task force and civilian volunteer organizations are augmented by force multipliers.

And while the only transportation from the city to Samal remains limited to the ferry system, Tecson said that they encourage tourists to work beyond that. There are other transportation options that won’t require tourists to bring their own vehicle: habal-habal (motorcycles) rides and vans are available.

The early promotion of VDFS for 2016 (which was soft-launched on Monday) is a move that aims to encourage tourists to consider Davao Region as their next summer destination next year.

DOT-XI regional director Robby Alabado III said that early promotion of discounted tour packages will provide tourists ample time to plan their summer getaway in the region. This includes being able to get best rates in accommodation and plane tickets.

“We will market attractions of the region as part of VDFS to create more tours and to encourage our tourists to explore the diverse culture, nature, and ecotourism of the region,” he said.

VDFS for 2016 is scheduled to run from March 25 to May 31. (Jesse Pizarro Boga/MindaNews)

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