• Leyte tourism gets help from missions

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    HUMANITARIAN missions involved in both continued relief and rebuilding of Tacloban and other towns of Leyte have been perking up tourism growth in the province.

    To date, 20 hotels have opened in Tacloban City with occupants booking for the long term as they are involved in continued relief, rehabilitation of the people and institutions, and rebuilding the province.

    Online news portal Interaksyon said that a banner and Philippine flag flies proudly at the Hotel Alejandro to inspire locals to stand up and move on, as the province goes through recovery from the destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November. The ancestral home built in 1932 turned hotel with modern amenities is back in business.

    Three months since Yolanda devastated the Visayas, some of the hotels that have been partially destroyed are now operating. These are: Asia Star, Golden Sun Pensione, Granda Hotel, GV Hotel, Highness Pension, Hotel Alejandro, Hotel Consuelo, Primrose, Rosevenille, San Juanico Gulf Hotel, Leyte Park Hotel & Restaurant and Welcome Home Pensione.

    Almost three months after Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas in November last year, 20 hotels in Tacloban City are now open for business.

    Verna Vargas of the Department of Tourism-Region 8 said that her office is having a hard time looking for vacant rooms whenever visitors ask for VIP accommodations.

    The Department of Tourism (DOT) softly launched in December its “bangon tours” or the “voluntours” program, enjoining visitors to be a part of the rebuilding process. In exchange, they get entitled to discounts in fares and accommodations. Dubbed as “Tindog Capiz,” the bangon tours began in Capiz, which besides Tacloban was as badly damaged by Yolanda. Among the destinations, Tindog Capiz will promote indigenous people’s communities, heritage sites, pilgrim sites and ecotourism sites.

    The DOT also said that other features of the bangon program are activities like tree and mangrove planting, schools and houses building, feeding programs, livelihood training, and many others.

    Balikbayans, overseas workers, international and domestic tourists, academic institutions, private companies and government agencies, among others, are invited to join the campaign.

    Economic stimulus
    The program encourages continued visitation by both international and local tourists to provide “economic stimulus” to tourism in the area, the DOT said.

    A certain percentage of the cost of tour packages booked through participating tour operators will be transferred to selected nongovernment organizations currently doing rehabilitation work in the affected areas, it added.

    In December, a month after the super typhoon hit Leyte, the famous Heritage of Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum opened, though its caretakers, have observed that only a few visitors have been to the place since its reopening.

    Other tourist spots in the region such as Redonia Residence, Madonna of Japan, Price Mansion and McArthur Park in Palo, Leyte, are still being assessed for rehabilitation.

    Outside of the DOT, the government agencies active in the continued relief and rebuilding of the Yolanda-savaged areas are the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Health.

    Most of the humanitarian missions come from foreign governments and foundations, local private companies and their foundations, and private professional groups for doctors, psychologists and therapists, which have raised funds and logistics to conduct long-term rebuilding operations. These include the Christian Relief Services, Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross.

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