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Bangon Tours comes to the rescue as PH likely to miss 2013 visitors target

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

The Philippines will likely miss its 5.5-million visitor arrivals target for 2013 on account of the triple whammy which hit the tourism sector – the Zamboanga crisis in September, the earthquake which rocked Cebu and Bohol last October 15, and super typhoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), which plowed through Eastern and Western Visayas on November 8.

“It may be difficult for the country to reach 5 million visitor arrivals this year,” said Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief operating officer Domingo Enerio III in a press briefing Friday.

TPB, formerly known as the Philippine Visitors and Conventions Center, is the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism and tasked with marketing the Philippines as a prime tourist destination to local and international tourists.

He cited reports from several resorts and tourism establishments in the Visayas region reporting “30 to 90 percent booking cancellations” for December, considered the peak season for travel in the country, on the heels of the Yolanda disaster.

 “Some resorts in Bantayan Island, of course, reported 90 percent cancellations,” he said, as they have fewer rooms and many resorts were damaged, as Yolanda directly hit the island in Cebu.

But even in Boracay Island, which was hardly touched by the super typhoon, he said one large well-known resort reported a 30-percent cancellation in bookings. He declined to identify the establishment.

On the upside, Enerio said, Manila-based hotels have registered “full bookings” this month.

Bangon Tours

The anticipated drop in foreign arrivals is one of the reasons the DOT, through the TPB, has launched “Bangon Tours,” a social tourism effort aimed at encouraging domestic travelers to visit major tourism destinations as a way to help in the rehabilitation and recovery of disaster-stricken areas.

“The project is in line with the government’s recovery and rebuilding efforts for the survivors of calamities through the promotion of domestic tourism,” he said.

“It is an invitation to the Filipino market to travel within the Philippines during the holiday period, visit our fun destinations, and participate in rebuilding efforts.”

The project will be participated in “initially” by some 20 members of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association and the Philippine Tour Operators Association, but Enerio said he hopes other tourist establishments such as restaurants, shopping malls and other retail outlets, as well as credit card firms and banks, will also join the social tourism effort.

He said the “participating tourist establishments are initially offering special tour packages to 16 tourist destinations nationwide and more destinations will be added. These establishments are being asked to share at least 5 percent of their net income from the tour packages/room nights sold via Bangon Tours. The percentage share will be directly given to the company’s chosen nongovernment organization or charitable foundation involved with the disaster-affected communities.”

Charities

The TPB’s recommended charities are Philippine Red Cross, Gawad Kalinga, World Vision, and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund.

But he added that the participants can also opt to donate a portion of their proceeds to local charities or civic organizations in their communities that would want to help in the Yolanda relief effort.

Asked how much relief funds TPB is targeting to raise from this social tourism effort, Enerio said: “If we’re able to raise P1 million, we’ll be very happy. If we’re able to raise P2 million, we’ll be doubly happy.”

The 16 areas to be featured initially in Bangon Tours are Ilocos, Tuguegarao, Baguio, Batangas-Puerto Galera, Manila-Tagaytay, Puerto Princesa, Baler, Bicol, Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Iloilo, Boracay, Siargao, Cagayan de Oro-

Camiguin, and Batanes.

But he added that more destinations may be offered under Bangon Tours, which will last until Feb. 2014.

Participating tourism establishments will be promoted by TPB on its website, social network accounts, and other marketing collaterals, he said.

(For more information about the Bangon Tours, email bangontours@tpb.gov.ph)