Official says it’s too early to assess impact of abduction on Samal tourism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 September) — The kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina in the Island Garden City of Samal on September 21 was an “isolated incident” and has not affected so far the number of visitors to the island, an official of the Provincial Tourism Office of Davao del Norte said.

But provincial tourism officer Noel Daquioag, speaking in the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City on Monday, clarified it was too early to say if the abduction would affect local tourism.

“It is just one week since the incident happened,” he said, but added resort operators noted there were no cancellations in the bookings and claimed they are getting a steady number of tourists even after the kidnapping took place.

Last Sept. 21, around a dozen armed men believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf arrived at Holiday Oceanview Resort in Samal and seized Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian, and Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, and Hall’s Filipina partner Marites Flor.

Ridsdel is president of TVI Minerals Processing Inc., a firm based in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for 2015-2016 of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.

Sekkingstad is the resort’s operations manager.

There were 30 foreigners in the resort at the time of the abduction, Daquioag said.

The official earlier said Samal Island represents 80 percent of Davao del Norte’s tourism, recording a total of 29,477 foreign and 649,915 domestic tourists last year.

He said Samal Island gets the most tourism bookings numbering around 200 for its Samal Tours that will comprise Monfort Bat Cave and Taklobo Tours in time for the 16th National Convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines from October 1 to 4, 2015 at the SMX Convention Center Davao.

Davao City won the hosting rights for the four-day tourism convention this year, but tourism stakeholders ruled out the idea of the entire region as the organizing committee.

Around 1,000 guests are expected to attend the convention.

“The Department of Tourism and the provincial tourism are strengthening the efforts to beef up the security,” Daquioag said.

The convention was held in Bacolod City last year.

In a press briefing last week, Chief Supt. Federico Dulay Jr., chief of the Special Investigation Task Group, said some private resorts were not cooperating with the police in the assessment of their security plan.

Daquioag encouraged the resorts to cooperate with the authorities by implementing tighter security measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)