CEBU CITY — The Department of Tourism (DoT) Tuesday gave assurances that the Arroyo Government’s declaration of martial rule over Maguindanao province will not have an adverse impact on Philippine tourism.
This, even as tourism offices abroad are expending efforts in informing potential visitors to the country about the real score with regards the massacre of close to 60 innocent, unharmed civilians, including over 30 journalists by a murderous group of men whose leaders belong to a ruling political family closely allied with President Arroyo.
Former DoT Undersecretary and now Senior Adviser Phineas Alburo said the declaration of martial law is confined to only one province, that is
Maguindanao, in Central Mindanao which is not a priority tourism locale and thus, is not seen to negatively affect the Philippine tourism industry as a whole.
“Our overseas offices have been instructed to explain to stakeholders in their own areas the consequence of martial law which is confined to one province and that the Government is on top of it,” said Alburo during the weekly 888 News Forum at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel in Cebu City yesterday.
“The violence in Maguindanao,” Alburo said, “has no or little effect as more tourists are seen coming in for the holiday season.”
In fact, he said, “the hotel industry has not received any cancellation of bookings or reservations following the eruption of violence in the said province.”
He said despite the fact that the news on Maguindanao is all over China, visa issuance for Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines has doubled by 40 percent, with popular Chinese Internet search engine, Baidu, ranking the country as among the top 10 most searched keyword in China.
For his part, Marco Polo Plaza Hotel General Manager Hanz Hauri said hoteliers are contented with how Government is handling the Maguindanao crisis and how the authorities are ensuring that violence there will not escalate.
Hauri said, to date, Marco Polo has no record of any cancellations in bookings for December nor has there been an influx of guests from Mindanao who might be moving out of the region due to trouble in the region.
“Our occupancies are just about the same as last year. So far so good and our security personnel are doing their job to ensure the safety of our guests and to screen suspicious persons,” said Hauri.
Meanwhile, industry stakeholders here are expecting a more vibrant Philippine tourism next year as countries overseas start recovering from the global financial crisis and with current Tourism Secretary Ace Durano staying on in his post.
National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS) Chairman Emeritus Robert Lim Joseph said many activities are being planned next year to further attract tourists to come to the Philippines, particularly Cebu, an expectation which, if realized, is certain to boost gains for the local tourism industry here.
Joseph said NAITAS, the biggest travel organization in the country with more than 1,000 members nationwide, will continue to work with the DoT and the Cebu Provincial Government to further attract traffic, especially from Russia and other emerging tourism markets.
“We are happy that Sec. Durano will be working with us until June next year. We are sure his efforts will be acknowledged afterwards and he will be declared the best Tourism Secretary we’ve ever had,” Joseph said.
Durano, who used to be a member of the House of Representatives, comes from an influential political family based in Danao, in the southern part of Cebu province.