Freeman Cebu Business

Terrorism threats, polls to curb foreign arrivals

Ehda Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Threats of terrorism and the projected chaos that the election year will bring may take toll on the country’s foreign arrivals in 2016.

However, the upbeat domestic tourism market is expected to sustain the industry.

Cebu after all, and the rest of the Central Visayas region have consistently proven its charm to cater to a larger chunk of travel spending among Filipinos who want to spend time exploring the beaches, caves, mountains, islets, and other destinations within the region.

Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Julie Najar expressed strong belief that Cebu will be able to offset the expected softening of foreign arrivals, by boosting the fascination of domestic tourists about Cebu and its neighboring provinces.

Najar said election or not, Filipinos these days are traveling. More so, that the election money to be released within the system will provide extra cash for Filipinos to wander.

"While the appetite of international travelers is threatened by terrorism risk, Cebu in particular is banking on the foreseen expansion of domestic travel," Najar said.

Najar's insight is also backed up by Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Gordon Allan Joseph, saying international arrivals may suffer in 2016 due to the terrorism-inflected fear.

Moreover, news regarding the Philippine election will also have an effect on the global travelers’ view of the country as election is usually associated with unrest and violence, it may fuel negative impression among foreign tourists to pursue travel plans to the Philippines this year.

"Tourism after all is for quality of life," Joseph said adding that if and when there any threat of peace and order, violence or a mere isolated unrest being magnified in the internet and other media channels, will dampen tourists' interest, regardless of nationality.

With these factual factors being considered, foreign arrival growth is at risk all throughout 2016.

"Everyone is scared these days" said Joseph explaining that arrival decline risk will not only be anticipated in the Philippines, but other destinations also around the world.

Aside from the Philippines, other countries are also holding their elections in 2016, countries like France, Germany and United States are set to change state leadership.

Meanwhile, aside from leisure-related revenues, Cebu's tourism will make money in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibits) segment, as this is catching up so fast recently, Najar said.

While predictions are conservatively bullish, Najar said the region's setback on infrastructure will continue to make unfavorable impressions among tourists.

"The unmatched infrastructure that is not prepared to accommodate more tourists across social status is a major drawback," she added.

Nevertheless, stakeholders are pursuing on their own to advance tourism potential of Cebu.

She said accommodation standards and quality of services are being addressed respectively by players to make Cebu a world class destination. Infrastructure impairment however may temporarily be regarded as "part of the adventure."

On the other hand, Department of Tourism (DOT-7) regional director Rowena Montecillo said that infrastructure concerns are being addressed, this may not be seen "overnight," but works are being done.

The upcoming change of leadership will not affect the in place roadmap set by the government under the Nations, Tourism Development Program (NTDP).

In fact, some roads leading to tourism destinations in the region are being fixed, including the signages or directions going to tourism sites are being improved.

The country's high regard for environment through eco-tourism promotions, inter-agency convergence like DTI, DPWH, among others, will continue regardless of who will sit as the new DOT secretary after the election, assured Montecillo.

From largely leisure driven attraction, Cebu's tourism will take another revenue stream from the interesting MICE market. The hosting of the APEC Summit last year, and other huge corporate meetings are just teasers of what is come," Montecillo said,

"Cebu will see more MICE related events this year, which may overtake the revenue dominantly sourced from leisure tourists," the tourism director added.

The over a million visitors expected to participate during this January's International Eucharistic Congress is a good "buena mano" for Cebu's MICE edge.

According to Montecillo, the IEC 2016 is expected to bring in 15 thousand registered delegates. But visitors coming from different religious sect who are going to participate the event could reach to a million. (FREEMAN)

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