GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 May) – Over 1.3 million domestic and foreign tourists visited parts of Region 12 (Soccsksargen) in the first quarter of the year as tourist destinations gradually reopened amid the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, Department of Tourism (DOT)-Region 12 director, said Wednesday the tourist arrivals during the period comprised a total of 1,220,884 same-day and 140,861 overnight visitors.
He said this was based on data provided by local government units (LGUs) and reports from tourist destinations and accommodation establishments in the region.
South Cotabato province posted the most number of same-day and overnight visitors with 400,467, followed by Sarangani with 340,125, North Cotabato with 216,182, Sultan Kudarat with 147,144, this city with 136,239, Koronadal with 77,893, Kidapawan with 26,967 and Tacurong with 16,728.
The official said the same-day visitors included 86 foreigners while those who stayed overnight reached 125.
He said the number of visitors who stayed at least a day in any tourist destination increased by 54 percent when compared to last year that only reached 560,135 due to the onset of the pandemic.
“(This was) despite the travel restrictions due to Covid-19,” Tamano said in a report.
But he said the overnight tourist arrival, which has slowed down since last year, decreased by 59 percent from last year’s 346,275.
He said this was due to decline of inbound travels, cancellation of flights, travel restrictions, strict border lockdowns, and imposition of curfews by LGUs because of Covid-19.
The DOT-12 report said the number of meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions or MICE activities also decreased to 468 during the first quarter from the 563 in the same period last year.
The average occupancy rate in accommodation establishments for stays of at least a night dropped to 20.13 percent from 29.37 last year.
To ease the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector, DOT-12 partnered with the Department of Labor and Employment for the provision of one-time cash assistance of P5,000 each to the affected workers.
As of March this year, the agency said a total of P28.86 million in grants were already released to 7,156 workers from 238 tourism establishments and community-based tourism organizations in the region.
DOT-12 facilitated the granting of zero-interest loans to 12 tourism micro, small and medium enterprises amounting to P3.7 million through the “Cares for Travel” program, which is implemented by the agency in collaboration with the Small Business Corporation.
“DOT also heightened its monitoring and inspection activities of accredited tourism-related establishments in the region to ensure that tourism establishments comply with the minimum health and safety protocols set by DOH (Department of Health),” it said.
The agency said the initiatives were complemented by capability-building trainings that focused on health and safety measures in the operation of tourism establishments. (MindaNews)