By Kier Edison C. Belleza
Cebu City – The number of visitors to Central Visayas fell to just 2.98 million in the first half of 2017, a record decline of 3.85 percent from the 3.10 million arrivals in the same period last year.
In his speech during the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s Bring Home a Friend program launch on Monday evening at the JPark Island Resort and Waterpark here, Regional Director Joshur Lanete II admitted that this year was quite challenging for the tourism industry.
Lanete had said what happened the past months could have prompted the 3.85 percent drop.
Soldiers had clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf in a Bohol town last April, just two days after the US embassy in Manila warned its citizens against travelling to Cebu and Bohol.
On May 23, Islamic State-inspired Maute group laid siege on the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, prompting President Duterte to declare martial law in the entire island of Mindanao.
Lanete added the fall could also be attributed to the incomplete data from the provincial tourism offices in the region.
He, however, said the DOT expects an increase in the region’s tourist traffic as the year comes to a close.
Initial data from DOT showed that from January to June this year, Cebu province had the highest visitor count in the region, which saw 2.25 million domestic and foreign arrivals.
Negros Oriental and Bohol followed with 400,905 and 285,484 guests, respectively.
Siquijor only logged 54,353 travelers in the first six months this year.
Korea remained the top source of foreign visitors for the covered period with 402, 858.
The other top foreign tourist markets of Central Visayas after Korea were Japan (183,644), China (171,197), USA (106,075) and Australia (32,396).
Sought for comment, Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), downplayed the decline, saying the figures were “misleading.”
“It was given at a time that the reports of the different tourism establishments who really are sources of all the arrivals and all of the room occupancy rates have not been submitted. Sixty-five percent of them that time had not submitted,” Queblatin said.
She said the drop has not “alarmed or bothered” them.
“There was really a slowdown, very few arrivals because of the Bohol scare but it peaked up several months after that,” she said, adding that throngs of people still flock the region’s tourist attractions.