R-12 aims for 1.9-M tourist arrivals this year

ILOILO CITY (MindaNews/21 March) — Tourism stakeholders in Region 12 are targeting to draw around 1.9 million tourists to the area this year through their enhanced promotion and marketing initiatives.

Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 12 director, said Friday such target doubles the region’s recorded tourist arrivals last year that reached around 900,000 foreign and domestic tourists or visitors.

In 2013, DOT-12 listed a total 345,328 foreign and domestic tourists who spent at least a night in any part of the region and another 471,980 day tourists.

The agency estimated an additional 100,000 visitors who were not recorded properly by local hotels and resorts.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Dillera said they consider the 1.9-million target for tourist arrivals this year as a “realistic and achievable” figure, citing that most of the region’s recorded visitors only came from 11 hotels in this city and several other resorts in the area.

She said they have planned a series of marketing and promotion activities for the region’s tourism destinations this year to facilitate the achievement of such target.

DOT-12 and the region’s tourism stakeholders embarked on a grand “selling mission” last Tuesday in parts of the Western Visayas, specifically the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod, in a bid to lure more tourists from the area.

The activity, which was joined by tourism officers of local government units and tourism industry players, is the first of the series of “selling missions” being planned for the region this year in various parts of the country.

On Thursday night, around 80 tourism players from Region 12 and Iloilo City attended the business matching session that organized at the posh Diversion 21 hotel here.

“They discussed linkages for tour packages and exchanged ideas on how to further expand visitor traffic between the two areas,” she said.

Dillera said they will launch on Friday afternoon a three-day Region 12 tourism exposition at the SM Mall here.

She said the exposition will features exhibits of the region’s top products, tourist destinations, fashion shows and cultural presentations.

“We will be giving prospective tourists a taste of the paradise-like attractions that we have in Region 12,” Dillera said.

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 focuses on “what Region 12 can offer as a paradise” through its world-class natural and cultural destinations.

The DOT-12 earlier decided to stage the “selling mission” to connect the “common ethnic bond between the people of Iloilo and the region’s settlers.”

“It envisions to lure the Ilonggos to Region 12’s tourism assets, making it a venue for filial and business gathering such as conferences, conventions, reunions and other similar events,” Dillera said.

Region 12 has a significant Ilonggo or Hiligaynon-speaking population that traces their roots to the settlers who were brought to the area by the government during the 1930s.

Presently, leading domestic airline Cebu Pacific maintains four direct flights weekly from this city to Iloilo City while the Philippine Airlines has three weekly flights for the same route.

“We’re already discussing with these airlines the possibility of adding more flights in anticipation the increased traffic between the two routes,” Dillera said. (MindaNews)