Iloilo, Bacolod to help promote R-12 tourist destinations

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 31 March) – Five major travel and tour operators based in the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod have signified to help promote various tourist destinations in Region 12 to the domestic and international tourism markets.

Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 12 director, said Monday the group initially booked a visit to the region this summer to establish linkages with local resorts, hotels and other industry players.

She said they laid out such plan during the business matching sessions organized by DOT-12 as part of its week-long tourism “selling mission” last week in Iloilo and Bacolod cities.

“They want to experience and see for themselves the top tourism destinations and other attractions that we have in the region so they can properly sell them to their clients,” she said.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Last year, the DOT-12 launched the “12th paradise” as the region’s tourism brand as part of its enhanced promotion and marketing campaign for the area’s tourist attractions.

The campaign mainly focuses on the selling of the “paradise-like” and world-class natural and cultural destinations in the region.

Dillera said among the tourism attractions that “intrigued” the Iloilo and Bacolod-based tour operators are the famed Lake Sebu in South Cotabato; Gumasa beach and paragliding adventure in Sarangani Province; bird sanctuary in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat; and, the Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada town in North Cotabato.

She said the group is initially planning to promote or market the area to student-travelers or tourists from their areas.

“They’re not necessarily tying up with our local tour operators but they want to set up direct connections with our local players like hotels, resorts, transport operators, among others,” she said.

Dillera said they expect local tour operators to eventually learn from the “selling strategy” of the Iloilo and Bacolod players.

She noted that out of around 100 registered travel and tour operators in the area, none have existing inbound promotion campaigns.

“All of them are selling outbound tour packages like for Singapore and Hong Kong. Not one has been actually selling local tour packages,” she said.

The official said the entry of the Iloilo and Bacolod tour operators into the area’s tourism market should challenge local players to innovate and expand their operations.

“If they’re not going to make any move soon, they might be left behind by operators based outside the region in terms of selling our own destinations and that’s not a good thing,” she said.

Michelle Solon, chair of the Region 12 tourism council, acknowledged such problem but said local players are already working on some strategies to address the matter.

She said plans are underway for the launching of aggressive promotion campaigns by the region’s tour operators for local tour packages.

Solon, who operates a travel and tour business here, said she is initially working on offering local tour packages for tourism and hotel and restaurant management or HRM students in Iloilo City.

“Their destinations are usually Cebu and Manila and we want to change that by luring them to our region,” she said.

In terms of the lack of inbound tourism campaigns by local operators, Solon she has been encouraging tour operators in the area to travel more and develop new packages to market.

“They need to travel and get a taste of our destinations in the region and also those in other parts of the country. For me, you have to enjoy and experience them first before you can properly sell them,” she added.