Occupancy rate at Samal resorts drops 2 weeks after abduction

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 October) – The occupancy rate at the resorts of Samal Island has dropped by 50 percent two weeks after the kidnapping incident at the Holiday Oceanview Resort, an official of the Davao del Norte Tourism Council (DNTC) said Monday.

In an interview at the BIMP-EAGA and Tourism Investment Forum at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao, DNTC president Araceli Ayuste said the local tourism has been severely hurt as shown in the cancellations of bookings since the September 21 kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina.

Ayuste, who owns Punta del Sol Resort, cited she had 15 bookings cancelled so far, roughly equivalent to P75,000 in revenue losses. She said this is far worse than during the lean period from July to October when the occupancy rate in most resorts was at least 70 percent.

She said it was an unusual drop and the biggest in the history of Samal tourism because no rebookings have been made unlike in the past when there were typhoons that hit Davao Region.

The worst typhoon that ever hit the region was “Pablo” in December 2012.

Ayuste said she was not expecting the impact would be this big because the kidnapping was an isolated case.

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.

In a travel advisory updated last October 2, Canadian government warned citizens against traveling to Mindanao, particularly the areas comprising the Autonomous Region in Muslum Mindanao, as well as the Zamboanga Peninsula and the provinces of Sarangani, Lanao del Norte, Davao Del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudurat “due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping”.

The advisory includes Davao City but Canadians are advised to “exercise a high degree of caution” while in its urban areas.

In a chance interview days after the kidnapping incident, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte assured foreigners are safe here.

Ayuste said they are now shifting their focus to domestic tourists who would sometimes worry for their safety every time they make bookings with the resorts in Samal.

The island has 82 resorts with around 600 rooms.

“This is the safest time to travel to Samal because the security is tough,” she said.

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

The abductors took the hostages to Sulu based on an intelligence report, Duterte said.

He added the victims could not have been pre-determined targets, most especially Ridsdel being the president of a mining company. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)