Tourist arrivals in Sarangani picking up

Beach volleyball in Gumasa, Glan municipality, during the Sarangani Bay Festival (SarBay) in May 2016. File photo by Russel Delvo, Sarangani Information Office

MALUNGON, Sarangani (MindaNews / 01 April) – Tourist arrivals in Sarangani province have been increasing since the last quarter of 2020 despite the restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, an official said on Wednesday.

Sarangani tourism officer April Marjorie Rudes said that from January to February this year, arrivals, mostly from neighboring Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Cotabato City and Davao Region, reached 186,770.

She said this is an encouraging indication that the industry can recover from its losses due to the pandemic in 2020.

Tourist arrivals in Sarangani went down from almost 1.6 million in 2019 to 498,131 in 2020.

Revenue earned is simply computed at 1,000 pesos per head per day.

Sarangani is a famous destination among local and foreign tourists for its pristine inland resorts and white sand beaches.

But even with the influx of tourists officials in the province have no plans to hold the popular Sarangani Bay Festival (SarBay Fest), the yearly May event that earned the title “Mindanao’s largest beach party,” drawing foreign and domestic partygoers from all over.

“We are not talking about it, much less of any plan to have it this year,” Rudes said.

She added that officials in the province would rather use money to help address the effects of the pandemic than on SarBay Fest.

For the Holy Week, Rudes said resort facilities in the province have been jam-packed with advance bookings since a week ago yet.

An emerging favorite spot is the Alta Vista Resort in Alabel town, where most bikers and city dwellers enjoy an astonishing deck view of this city and Sarangani Bay.

Rudes, however, pointed out, that resort operators in the province, in following protocols set by health authorities, have not been accepting “walk-in clients” since late last year.

Tourists have to show their booking slips and contact-tracing QR codes at the checkpoint before they may enter the province.

Aside from a unified protocol imposed by the provincial government, each town in the province has their own sets of guidelines to ensure the safety of residents and guests.

In the tourist town of Glan where vacationers usually flock in Gumasa, a coastal stretch with white powdery sand, resort owners face stiff penalties if they violate the strict health protocols and regulations imposed by the local government.

White sand beaches are the main attraction in Glan, Sarangani. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Glan Mayor Dr. Vivien Yap said they are serious and will shut down erring resort facilities and have their business permits canceled if found violating the health protocols and regulations.

Last year, Yap ordered the month-long shutdown of a popular beach hotel in barangay Taluya of the town for twice hosting a mass gathering that exceeded the limit on capacity.

Rudes said teams from the police and local government roam around, making sure that tour facilities are properly observing anti-COVID-19 health regulations and protocols.

A health worker in the town said they cannot afford to let their guard down just because the tourism industry has shown signs of recovery.

As regulations dictate, Rudes said resort owners are to strictly follow the 50-percent limit on capacity.

The popular Tuka Marine Park in Kiamba town can only allow 150 to 200 tourists on any given day. It used to have an average of 500 guests per day. (Rommel G Rebollido/MindaNews)