The tourism industry in Region 8 or Eastern Visayas is growing steadily, and businesses are coming back, almost two years after super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) struck the region, local officials said.
“Immediately after Yolanda happened, there were a lot of people that were saying the tourism industry for Region 8 died with Yolanda, but we’re very proud to say that we proved them wrong,” Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 8 Regional Director Karina Rosa S. Tiopes told the Manila Times. “In fact on that very first week, the doors of our hotels opened because they needed to provide accommodation facilities for the volunteers. We can say that they were not really tourists but then they needed the industry for their needs. Immediately after that, recovery from our stakeholders was fast. They saw opportunity in the midst of these challenges.”
Tiopes added, “If you go and visit Tacloban, you will still see remnants of what happened to us because many things still have to be fixed in terms of physical recovery like with buildings and homes. But you’ll feel a different energy from among our businessmen.
A lot of small hotels, restaurants, quaint restaurants are putting up there with different themes. And if you talk to our people, you’ll see how resilient they are and how determined we are to rise back above that challenge.”
Despite the ruins caused by typhoon Yolanda, tourist arrival in the region was pegged at 964,093 in 2014, increasing by 31.70 percent from 732,055 in 2013.
“We are happy to say that our growth rate in terms of arrivals is not really that much affected after Yolanda,” said Tiopes. “In fact, we had an average of 30 percent growth from 2013 to 2014, and we are aiming to maintain this. We even upped the ante for our targets for 2015 and 2016. This is why we are really preparing for this. And we have enhanced our existing products, and we are developing new products,” Tiopes said.
She said domestic tourists, just like in other regions in the country, still account for majority of the incoming tourists.
“So of the total figure, only around 40,000 were foreign tourists,” Tiopes pointed out. “But for us, we take it as a challenge. That means we really have to look at our products and come up with products that are more responsive to what our foreign market needs.”
For 2015, DOT Region 8 is aiming for one million tourist arrivals a hundred thousand more in 2016.
Tourist receipts likewise surged, added Tiopes.
“The Regional Development Council for Region 8 acknowledges that tourism is giving the economy a push because agriculture is down,” she explained. “The industry is taking off. In fact, we are still having our Mahandi Eastern Visayas Regional Trade Fair to show that even our MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are beginning to stand up and back to business mode. It will take time, but our people are very determined.”
Meanwhile, the DOT still revaluating the process and giving enough time for awarding the new star ratings under the National Accommodation Standards for hotels and resorts in the Philippines.
The ratings, which are expected to be announced in November, are aimed to develop the quality of accommodation and hospitality in the country.
Tiopes said Region 8 might still be not strong enough for the new star ratings, although the region is aiming to raise their standards despite the setback caused by typhoon Yolanda.