Region 12 targets Western Visayas as next tourism market

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 March) – Tourism stakeholders in Region 12 are looking at the Western Visayas as the next top market for the region’s tourist destinations.

Nelly Nita Dillera, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 12 director, said they will embark on a six-day mission to the Western Visayas starting Tuesday to aggressively promote the region’s tourist attractions as well as lure potential investors for the area’s thriving tourism industry.

She said the “selling mission,” which will be joined by industry players and tourism officials of local government units in the region, will cover the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod.

“We are moving on to the next level of exposing the region through this selling mission, which offers maximum exposure to our tourism destinations,” she said.

Dillera said the activity will be composed of travel fairs featuring the “paradise-like” destinations of Region 12.

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

The official said the region’s delegation has scheduled cultural presentations, business meetings and matching as well as familiarization tours.

She said the main “selling event” will be staged on March 21 to 23 at SM Mall in Iloilo City.

The Iloilo leg of the familiarization tour is scheduled on March 20 while the Bacolod leg will be on March 24, she said.

Dillera said they decided to conduct a selling mission in Western Visayas to encourage more tourists from the area to visit the region.

She said the initiative mainly aims “to connect the common ethnic bond between the people of Iloilo and the region’s settlers.”

“It envisions to lure 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,” she 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.

The Ilonggo settlers helped build various settlements in the area, among them Dadiangas in this city and Marbel in nearby Koronadal City.

More families from the Western Visayas had settled in parts of the region over the years and even named their communities or settlements after their areas of origin.

Due to their connections with Western Visayas, local settlers or residents would usually send their children to universities and colleges in Iloilo City and the neighboring areas to study.

Dillera said they’re targeting to further exploit the “special connection” between the two regions by ushering in more tourism exchanges.

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

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.

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

She said it includes “float in paradise for the various water activities, shower in paradise for the different waterfalls, dip in paradise for the underwater experiences, immerse in paradise for the distinct flora and fauna, wear in paradise for the different traditional clothing, dance in paradise for the cultural dances, create in paradise for the artistic prowess of the people, delight in paradise for the scenic sites, marvel in paradise for the historical structures, play in paradise for the various sports events, savor in paradise for the delicacies and explore in paradise for the natural adventure activities.”