TOURISM promotion activities in Mindanao region go into high gear with the launch of the “Visit Davao Fun Sale 2015,” which will feature sales and massive discounts from its various participating establishments.
In an interview with Eden Josephine David, chief tourism operations officer of the Department of Tourism (DOT), Davao regional office, she said the Visit Davao Fun Sale 2015 is the city’s “biggest tourism sales event that features sales and promotions from over 35 hotels, accommodation facilities, and travel and tour operators; 12 malls and shopping centers, some 100 restaurants, and over 30 spa and wellness centers.”
The event, patterned after the Great Singapore Sale, is scheduled from April 3 to May 17. This is the second year of the Davao sale, which “shall give tourists and even locals the opportunity to enjoy their summer vacation with varied offerings and discounts from establishments of up to 80 percent,” she added.
Every week during the sale period, MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibits) organizers and malls will mount different activities like electronic dance music parties, street parties, contests and themed events.
David said the event is projected to increase local visitors to Davao by 10 percent, and foreign tourists by 30 percent.
The Visit Davao Fun Sale is just one of the many promotional activities that the DOT is undertaking this year to bring more tourists to Mindanao.
Tourism Assistant Secretary for Mindanao Arturo Boncato Jr. told the Businessmirror that this year’s direction for promotions is to position Mindanao in activities and products that it is strong in such as “eco adventure, and crafts like woven materials and food. This will be the general strokes of our [Mindanao] advertising campaign. This will be driven by the Office of the Secretary and will go beyond the social-media sphere. We’ll be part of the local and international visitor campaigns.”
He added that an international MICE campaign has also been launched by the DOT “and the materials feature three MICE destinations—Manila, Cebu and Davao.” One of the MICE advertising campaigns currently playing, for instance, was shot in Davao’s Pearl Farm Resort.
Another program the DOT is planning is a “tour circuit” to take advantage of the region’s excellent road network. “There are markets which can actually do caravans around Mindanao, and these are circuits that we are putting together. During certain times of the year, like in the summer, we can organize with tour operators a ‘Davao-Eastern Mindanao-Northern Mindanao’ loop, which we can do for five to seven days. On the other side of the region, we can also do a tour that will take visitors to General Santos City-Saranggani-Cotabato, or we can do Northern Mindanao, where the visitors can go straight to Zamboanga City.”
As part of DOT’s major preparations in implementing these circuits, he added, they are consulting and discussing with the local government units (LGUs) to strengthen the security of their respective areas. The region has been largely portrayed as unsafe by local and international media despite the reported skirmishes between the military and Muslim insurgents in far-flung areas being isolated incidents. This has propagated fears of traveling to Mindanao in general.
Boncato said that, fortunately, LGUs in Mindanao are now “cooperative,” especially on tourism projects. “In the past, when you say ‘tourism’, you decorate the stage, then there’s a program. But now they [local governments] see tourism as a livelihood; they see the significance of being exposed to the rest of the world. I guess social media also plays a big help there. You go to the Enchanted River (in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur), you post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and it’s all over and people are talking about it. You meet people there, but they’re not from that area anymore. They come from all over the Philippines or the world.”
He underscored the role budget airlines have played in pushing Mindanao tourism. “The average traveler was able to travel four times last year. So people look forward to discovering new destinations. They ask, ‘Where do we go next?’ ‘We want to be the first ones to be there.’ The newer and stranger the destination, the more exciting for them.” This attitude has opened up a lot of Mindanao destinations to tourists.
Boncato admitted, however, that for certain destinations in Mindanao, as with the rest of the country, there may be a lot of new and exciting places to discover, but there are inadequate accommodations for visitors. He maintained that the job of attracting investors to put up hotels and resorts in Mindanao still lies with the LGUs. “We want all these new accommodations to rise, but the job of looking for investors is still theirs [LGUs]. They have to extend the incentives to attract the investors and continue strengthening the peace and order situation in their areas.”
The LGUs dedication to tourism could be seen in last November’s World Travel Market in London. For the first time, local government executives, especially from Mindanao joined the Philippine delegation to the second-largest travel fair and exhibit in the global tourism industry. Among the Mindanao provinces, which put up booths in the 300-square-meter Philippines Pavilion of London’s International Exhibition and Convention Center were Camiguin, Surigao del Norte/Siargao, Zamboanga City, Samal Island and Davao del Sur.
“It’s high time for Mindanao to contribute to our national goal of achieving 10 million foreign visitors in 2016,” Boncato stressed.
Meanwhile, the Visit Davao Fun Sale is supported by Air Asia and Cebu Pacific, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Bonamine.
DOT Davao’s David said the airlines shall provide seat sales and low fares, promotion mileages, in-flight announcements of the event, and tickets for raffle draws. BPI will promote the event through their network of card and bank account holders by putting the event’s logo in the statement of accounts, text blasting and putting up posters in all their branches. “The bank will also fund the street banners and announcements on the lamp posts of the sale all over the city,” she said. Bonamine shall give free tours under the banner “Tuloy ang Byahe” raffle.
Special to BusinessMirror
Image credits: Photo courtesy DOT-Davao