Selling our tourism highway

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


WE ARE hoping that Bacolod City will host one of the meetings of Apec 2015. We are now being busy preparing for Panaad sa Negros Festival 2014. Definitely, Negros Occidental will host the national conference of the officers and members (and guests also) of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (Atop) in October 2014. Department of Tourism-Western Visayas Regional Director Helen Catalbas is opening the tourism flood gates in Western Visayas. We can always expect for a tourism upsurge.

The tourism climate change in Western Visayas brought about by our strong community-based program is anticipated to bring in more local and foreign tourists. We need to set up a carefully planned tourism highway… by land, air and water. We need to have effective links with our neighboring provinces and islands. The national tourism highway is designed to allow all kinds of tourists (and investors) to travel from Luzon, to Visayas, to Mindanao, and vice versa. Expected tourists in Western Visayas should be provided opportunities and a thousand and one reasons why they should visit Western Visayas First.

We encourage visitors from Boracay to visit the “Binirayan” province and later explore the churches of “Irong-Irong,” and reconnoiter Guimaras for green mangoes (also to scrutinize what monks do in the morning). Negros Occidental is just a “Ro-Ro” away from Guimaras. You have the option to take a fast craft from Iloilo to Bredco port and then be in the heart of Bacolod to see whoever is smiling in the City of Smiles. What should be our dream for a tourism highway?

We dream for a perfect travel. We dream that our buses and jeepneys are road worthy. Vehicles should be in perfect running condition with cautious professional, non-drug addict drivers, and conductors who understand basic English, tourist-friendly and believe in good grooming, hygiene and sanitation. We dream that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board will religiously check with dedication all pertinent papers for the operations of all jeepneys and buses regardless of the color.

We further dream that bus terminals will have comfortable comfort rooms to effectively comfort weary tourists and travelers. It is expected that there will be facilitators to check the passengers’ lines giving priority to senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant women, and passengers carrying small children. We anticipate police dogs to detect bomb and drugs. There should be personnel from government agencies to look into souvenir items like shells, island sand or stone, plants fruits, and endangered animals, or children who could be victims of trafficking.

We dream that along the highway, there will be public toilets and restaurants. Public toilets are to be clean with tissue paper, hand soap and a relaxing area for mothers to breastfeed their babies and change diapers. Restaurants should sell the best food and delicacies served by properly trained waiters. Smokers should have an area away from those who hate nicotine. A public address system should be installed to announce arrivals and departures.

Our seaports should not just be dreams but realities. We expect for a cool departure area (not smelling pesticide). Comfort rooms for both sexes should carry a hospitable Visayan tradition (not a torture chamber). It is good (or best) if the management can play on television screens the tourism activities of the region with encouraging messages from the local industry leaders. Fast crafts and “Ro-Ros” are expected to depart and arrive on time. The ocean vessels should be sea worthy navigated by competent captains and staff wearing the proper company uniforms. Services of the attendants should be of international standards. Again, we don’t want to smell wine coming from you-know-what.

Instead of crime movies, tourist attractions, festivals, and culture shows should dominate the TV screen. We want to see the attendants coming out to assist the passengers when the sea gets rough. If there are doctors or nurses on board, it is best that they do some charity work to serve the paying passengers. We encourage the DOT to send evaluation sheets to check the services rendered by fastcrafts and “Ro-Ros”.

Our airports in Western Visayas should be globally competitive. We challenge the managers to go out of their offices to check gate inspection, landscape operations, maintenance of the toilets, departure-arrival areas, cargo section and even the canteens. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police personnel are expected to be strict but courteous. Utter magic words to give passengers sweet welcome and delicious farewell. Taxi drivers and other transports operating at the airports should behave like “ambassadors” of good will. They should not be like members of hold-up gang by charging passengers with illegal fare.

If we want to have the best tourism highway, our men should be best. We look forward that the best government agencies and best local officials are at our side. Tourism can only be at best when we give our best.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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