GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – It’s “business as usual” for the tourism industry in Region 12 despite the travel restrictions imposed by several countries to parts of Mindanao as a result of the continuing conflict in Zamboanga City.
Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 12 director, said visitor arrivals and accommodation bookings in key areas of the region have remained high in the past weeks and they expect the situation to even improve in the coming weeks.
“In terms of possible impact to our tourism industry here, I don’t think we should worry much about what’s happening in Zamboanga,” she said.
Figures are not immediately available but she noted that this could be seen with the increasing passenger traffic at the city international airport, which presently serves six to eight daily airline flights.
Philippine Airlines maintains 10 flights to and from Manila and three flights each to and from Cebu and Iloilo cities every week.
Cebu Pacific has two daily flights to and from Manila and three flights each to Cebu and Iloilo every week.
At the height of the standoff between government forces and elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari faction in Zamboanga City last week, Dillera cited that the region was hosting visitors from the embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Manila.
She said the visitors, who were led by Ambassador Agnes Nyamande-Pitso, specifically toured this city, nearby Koronadal City and Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato.
“Before they (South African delegation) came we had the Tuna Festival here that drew significant number of foreign tourists. We also have ongoing festivities and upcoming events that we expect to again attract many visitors,” Dillera said.
On Wednesday, Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province celebrated the culmination of its week-long Talakudong Festival, which coincides with the 13th anniversary of its cityhood.
DOT-Region 12 has set a number of major events here next week as part of the celebration of the regional tourism week.
The event will be highlighted by a regional tourism summit on Sept. 27 and the Mindanao Tourism Congress on Sept. 28.
The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region 12 has also adopted the tourism event as the highlight of this year’s RDC Week celebration.
Dillera said tourism stakeholders in the region are continuously working to offset any negative impact that the conflict in Zamboanga City might bring to the region’s tourism industry.
“It will not also stop us from keeping on promoting our tourism potentials here,” she added.