Tour operators to market Negros Oriental’s diverse destinations

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Tour operators to market Negros Oriental�s diverse destinations
This May 16, 2024 photo shows Negros Oriental sign in front of the province's 100-year-old Capitol Building.
Philstar.com / Rosette Adel

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — Philippine Tour Operators Association Inc., the country’s leading and largest travel and tours group, and the provincial government of Negros Oriental joined hands in efforts to spur the tourism industry in the province.

2024 targets

For 2024, executive director and provincial tourism board chair of Negros Oriental Tourism Council Woodrow “RR” Maquiling Jr. said that the province targets 500,000 tourist arrivals, an increase from last year’s 272,000 inbound tourists.

The 2024 tourist arrival target is still far from the more than 1 million tourist arrival record in 2019, the last full year before the Philippines implemented travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

Maquiling, however, said that despite this, the Negros Oriental tourism numbers are picking up, reporting that in the first quarter of 2024 the province beached its 125,000 quarterly target and registered 142,000 tourist arrivals. This is a 155% increase from the 55,000 registered in Q1 of 2023.

He added that the Department of Tourism estimates that the 142,000 is equivalent to P2.8 billion revenue circulating among the people of the province.

The provincial tourism official said that tour operators can help Negros Oriental recover from the impact of COVID-19 and promoting the province to international and local clients.

“We had four governors in one term at the capitol. All the help you can extend to the province and the people of Negros Oriental ensuring that our tourism stays afloat is very much appreciated,” Maquiling said during the business-to-business session with PHILTOA and local stakeholders.

“PHILTOA will help us reach our goals, our targets. If we continue to push harder, maybe we can reach 600,000 arrivals by the end of the year,” he said in another speech last May 19, adding that 550,000 to 600,000 is equivalent to P10 to P12 billion revenue for the province.

Negros Oriental has faced several challenges amid the changes in leadership following the controversial killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.

Currently, the province is led by Gov. Manuel "Chaco" Sagarbarría who assumed office in May 2023. Maquiling said tourism is among the top priorities of the incumbent provincial government who wishes to push tourism, culture and arts as an economic driver for the people of Negros Oriental.

As a reciprocal gesture to the warm welcome of the provincial government, the tour operator members of PHILTOA and members of the press visited Negros Oriental from May 16 to 19 to immerse in the tour offerings of the province and its capital Dumaguete City, dubbed the “City of Gentle People.” This coincided with the centennial celebration of the capitol.

The following members joined the familiarization tour eyed to market the diverse tourist destinations of the province including the world-famous Apo Island, Manjuyod White Sandbar, Balinsasayaw Twin Lakes, Dumaguete City’s historic gems such as the Belfry, Siliman University, St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral and the heart of the city, Rizal Boulevard, among others:

  • Bacolod Tour Guide Co. Ltd. – Nathan Rio
  • Dakila Prime Travel and Tours Corp. – Andrei Ivan Lacsamana
  • A Whole New World Travel Express – Crizelle Joya
  • Strikers Travel Corp. – Maria Lourdes Japson
  • Bridges Multi Business Services Inc. – Mary Ann Ong
  • Guide to the Philippines – Joymie Nifas
  • Aiesha Travel And Tours – Adenida Estabillo Bacud
  • Air Lounge – Jennel Balajadia
  • ATD Xperience – Harold Atondo
  • Gethrose travel – Genebeth Advincula
  • EC Minds Tour – Dave Camacho
  • Neth Travel and Tours – Romulo Lumibao Jr.
  • Landsair Tours And Travel Corp – Maggie May Pereda
  • Rajah Travel Corporation – Mark Ren Apolinar
  • Biyaheko – Kathleen Guinto
  • PHILTOA – Jovy Caldejon and Ella Marie Edera

They also networked with the province’s fellow tour operators and hospitality groups including the Negros Oriental Association of Travel and Tour Agencies and the Negros Oriental Hotel Resort Restaurant Association in business-to-business sessions.

PHILTOA's commitment

Maria Lourdes Japson, PHILTOA 1st vice president and former Department of Tourism assistant secretary, said that the business-to-business session is “an excellent platform for sharing insights, exploring innovative strategies for tour packaging and marketing and discussing how we can collectively enhance our tourism products and services as well as destination management in order to create exceptional travel experiences.”

Japson said that she and PHILTOA’s 2nd vice president and trustee in-charge of product development, Mary Ann Ong, discussed the creation of a consortium for a Negros Oriental Tour Package that can be sold and disseminated to members to boost NegOr’s tourism.

“As the leading and largest travel and tours association focused on inbound tourism, PHILTOA would like to express gratitude and our biggest congratulations to Negros
Oriental for inviting us to explore your wonderful place and witness your incredible centennial celebration,” she said.

“Congratulations and thank you also to my fellow former DOT executive ED RR. As our humble response for your kind gesture Gov Chaco and ED RR, we promise to promote and share our experiences here, we will do our best to boost the tourism arrivals just what ED RR expects from us. With what we experience yesterday and today and hopefully for the coming days, we believe Negros Oriental is truly a diverse destination that is truly visiting for,” Japson added.

PHILTOA’s Harold Atondo also announced that their tour operators group will return to Negros to explore its other tourist destinations including the Kanlaon Rice Terraces to further market more of the province's tourism offerings and spots to their clients.

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