Friday , June 22, 2018

Eastern Visayas tourism stakeholders oppose reshuffle

TOURISM stakeholders in Eastern Visayas have expressed opposition to the directive of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo to reshuffle the department’s regional directors, saying the move is a setback to sustain the region’s tourism campaign.

In a resolution, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Leyte-Tacloban chapter said it was deeply concerned with the ongoing reshuffling in the tourism department.

“This abrupt changes in the leadership of the department’s regional offices could stall the momentum of the private and public stakeholders’ collaboration to fully restore and develop the full potentials of tourism sites in Eastern Visayas,” the group said.

The business organization appealed to Teo to spare Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes in the reassignment.

Tiopes will be transferred to Zamboanga. She will be replaced by Nelly Dillera, the DOT regional chief of Soccsksargen.

In her first department order this year issued on January 4, Teo directed the reassignment of several regional directors, citing “in the exigency of service” as the reason for the transfer.

Officials affected by reshuffling were given a week to “turn over documents and other information to the next highest personnel in the office to be vacated so that the same can be turned over to the incoming official.”

“We passed a resolution for reconsideration on the reassignment of Director Tiopes to Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) for the continuation of the ongoing tourism program in Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) that will help boost the economy, particularly Tacloban, as the center of trade and commerce,” said PCCI local chapter president Wilson Uy, also a board member of Leyte province.

Ludette Ruiz, tour operator of Leyte Gulf Travel and Tours, said they were not happy with the changes since Tiopes is a native of the region and knows the sentiments of the locals.

Although Dillera was as competent as Tiopes, the latter knows Eastern Visayas “like the back of her hands,” said Ruiz. The transfer would be a big setback from any efforts to fully recover from natural calamities, she added

“Now bringing in a new face, one who can’t even speak our language, no background whatsoever about what we have been through would set us back in our tourism development plan,” she said.

Ruiz, who has been in the tour operator business for over a decade, said that to be able to attain tourism growth, a regional director must be able to touch base with the locals of a destination, educate them in the benefits that tourism could bring, and gain their trust.

Tiopes has been heading the DOT field office in Tacloban City since 2005 from her previous assignment in the Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Information Agency.

In a brief interview, Tiopes said she is ready to take the challenge as the incoming head of the DOT Zamboanga office.

“We’re on the same boat with Zamboanga in terms of economic profile, but it’s a big challenge to get familiar with locals and culture as well as work with stakeholders,” Tiopes added.

A senior DOT regional office staff who requested anonymity, said this is the first time that a tourism secretary ordered the reassignment of regional directors.

“This is shocking and very unusual since I worked in the DOT in the past 20 years,” the staff said.

Since 2005, the tourism field office in Tacloban has been pushing for community-based tourism by empowering the people’s organization, change public perception about tourism, accredit more establishments, train more tourism workers, and help the industry recover from the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Recently, Tiopes oversaw the tourism department and stakeholders completed the 2017–2022 Regional Tourism Roadmap.

Tourism stakeholders in Eastern Visayas are eyeing at least 1.31 million to 3.23 million annual tourist arrivals in the region from 2017 to 2022 as outlined in the new development roadmap.

From a six to seven percent annual growth target, stakeholders increased it to at least 20 percent annually for both domestic and foreign guest arrivals. In 2016, the region ushered 1.22 million visitors, a significant increase from the measly 365,000 arrivals in 2011. (PNA)