Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
SOUTH Koreans are helping drive the tourism rebound in Bohol, many of them arriving on scheduled and chartered flights at the Panglao International Airport (PIA).
In an email to the BusinessMirror, Allan Santos, general manager of Bohol Beach Club, credited the ease of travel between Korea and Bohol, and within the province, as a reason for the rise in international arrivals. “Bohol has experienced a major increase from the Korean market this year due to the direct flights from Incheon and Busan. Convenience is also a strong consideration [by Koreans] since compared to other main destinations such as Boracay, wherein they would need to transfer twice by land (Kalibo to Caticlan, Boracay port to hotels) and once by boat (Caticlan-Boracay), major resorts in Bohol are a mere 10-minute drive away. Good beaches [are also] a reason why they consider Bohol [as a leisure destination].”
He added, Koreans “go for tours, water activities, and look for good eating places. They are not the type who stay in the resort and laze around the pool or beach for a whole day. Korean travelers to Bohol are more of families, couples and honeymooners.”
As of October 1, Korean carriers that fly to PIA are Jeju Air, daily from Incheon to Panglao (ICN-TAG); Air Busan, daily (ICN-TAG), and charter flights via Air Busan from Busan (PUS).
Total arrivals near 716K
Data from the Bohol Tourism Office showed foreign tourists reached 227,532, accounting for some 32 percent of the 715,670 total visitor arrivals from January to November 21. South Koreans topped the list of major source markets at some 98,000, representing a 43-percent market share. In prepandemic 2019, total visitor arrivals in Bohol reached some 1.6 million, with foreign nationals reaching 727,051, and Filipinos accounting for 854,853.
Grand Benedicto, president of the Cebu-based Enrison Land Inc., owner and operator of BE Grand Resort-Bohol, disclosed that the company has a Korean partner, who markets the resort to Korean travelers. “We can safely and proudly say that we and our Korean partner brought the market to Bohol this year. The chartered flights are almost all our guests. The Jeju crew also stays with us.”
BE Grand Resort, which recently won as Best Luxury Hideaway Villa, Best Luxury Villa in AsiaWorld Luxury Hotel, and Best Luxury Villa Resort in the Philippines at the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2023, hosts families and couples from South Korea. “[They go] for the usual activities—tours, diving, and beach. Some are starting to look for golf, which Bohol, unfortunately, does not have,” said Benedicto.
Social media drives tour choices
For his part, Leeds Trompeta, general manager of Amorita Resort, said Koreans are among the top foreign tourists of the resort. “The market has shifted from the package tour program to a more free and easy experience. The younger market—who can now converse well in English—like to make their own itineraries and explore the island based on what they see other young Koreans post on social media.”
He added, a growing market for Bohol these days is “free diving, which is putting the destination on the international map of must-dive places in the world.” Amorita Resort was recognized as Best Luxury Seaside Resort in Asia, and Best Luxury Family Beach Resort and Luxury Family Hotel in the Philippines from the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2023.
Santos and Trompeta both reported surprisingly high occupancy levels at their respective resorts. “We have several travel agent partners, but there is a noticeable increase in direct online bookings” said Trompeta. “Bohol has certainly bounced back from the pandemic,” added Santos, with revenge tourism pushing arrivals.