By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Department of Tourism (DOT)-Region 6 on Tuesday bared that it will focus on promoting newer tourism products for 2023, which will involve most if not all of the cities and provinces of the Western Visayas region.
In a press conference in Iloilo City, DOT-6 unveiled its priority circuits and products for promotion in 2023, which include the following:
– Western Visayas Sugar Heritage Trail;
– Fun Farms Program;
– Slow Food Travel Project;
– Boracay Biking Tours;
– Boracay Wellness Workation;
– Boracay Food Crawl;
– Development of Western Visayas Dive Circuit; and
– Development of Inter-Regional Products for the Visayas Cluster.
The Western Visayas Sugar Heritage Trail aims to promote and develop sugar story itinerary circuits in the region, which will involve hacienda houses for food-related services and experiences.
This will be organized into two clusters, comprising of north-western Negros Occidental with 37 sites (Silay City, Talisay City, Victorias City, Bacolod City, and Manapla town) and Iloilo City with 19 sites, which are historically sugar centers in the region and the country. This is currently in the consultation stage.
The Fun Farms program is a continuous effort to enhance and update strategies in farm tourism promotion, build capacity in making farm experiences more impactful and sustainable, and strengthen partnerships in creating new farm tourism products.
DOT-6’s data as of January 23 indicated that there are 42 agricultural farms accredited as tourism-related establishments.
The Slow Food Travel Project research and resource mapping of agroecological and cultural diversity linked to food and identify the communities that protect this heritage, partnering with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology, and Slow Food communities in Negros Occidental and Panay Island.
There are three projects involving Boracay Island, which are the Biking Tour, Food Crawl, and Wellness Workation (work-vacation).
There are two proposed circuits for the Biking Tour, which are sightseeing for families and endurance for adventure-goers, aiming at converting the island from a party destination to a family-oriented one.
The Food Crawl is described as a “deconstructed meal” where tourists will go to participating restaurants to eat one part of the menu until they finish the complete meal, showcasing available local and international cuisine on the island.
The Wellness Workation aims to develop Boracay as an “office space and wellness retreat” at the same time, referring to the increase of remote work during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, entailing longer tourist stays and sustainable activities in the island.
For the development of the Western Visayas Dive Circuit, a consultant will be going around the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental, to conduct profiling of dive sites, underwater mapping, assessment, data processing and analysis of coastal and marine habitats, identification of existing dive and medical facilities, and local engagements with political and community leaders and stakeholders.
The development of Inter-Regional Products for the Visayas Cluster will involve development of circuits on motor touring, diving, and pilgrimage, in collaboration with the DOT regional offices in Central and Eastern Visayas.
Current and upcoming activities by the DOT-6 this year include:
– Clark-Boracay Travel Exchange;
– Participation and hosting of travel and trade fairs including Colors of Mindanao, Travel Tour Expo, MICE Convention in Davao, Central Philippines Summer Travel Fair in Cebu, Regional Travel Fair, ASEAN Tourism Forum at Yogyakarta in Indonesia, and the Philippine Experience Program;
– Support to various events including the Dinagyang Festival and the Tour Guide Convention in Iloilo City this February;
– Cultural and Film Tourism including promotional projects for Antique, CineKasimanwa, and CineIsla;
– MICE Tourism activities; and
– Support to community-based tourism and tourism frontliners.
DOT-6’s new regional director, Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, said that the priority circuits were “shying away” from the usual tourism products promoted in past years, citing an emphasis on the unique offerings of Western Visayas compared to the offerings in other regions.
“The products that we have prioritized in 2023 are not the same as before that we just focus on Sun and Beach, Cultural tourism, et cetera, because we are also competing with other regions,” said Rodriguez.
“It’s very much aligned with [one of] the 7-point agenda of the Tourism Secretary [Christina Frasco], equally promoting other destinations, not only Cebu, Palawan, and Boracay, but also other provinces that offer other equally interesting tourism products,” she added.
Western Visayas welcomed 2.8 million tourist arrivals in 2022, a 109 percent jump from their 1.16 million arrivals in 2021, and logging P37.87 billion in tourist receipts.
The bulk of tourists came from Aklan with 61 percent (1.7 million), owing to Boracay Island, followed by Bacolod City with 19 percent (547,483), Iloilo City and province with 5 percent each (144,571 and 131,310, respectively), Negros Occidental with 4 percent (117,766), Guimaras with 3 percent (88,852), Capiz with 2 percent (68,168), and Antique with 1 percent (30,025).