Chocolate Hills park opens-A A +A
Saturday, October 26, 2013
BOHOL - A new tourism site is slowly gaining popularity in Bohol.
Originally scheduled to open next month, the Camanayon Hill Development Corp., said the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAP) has become some tourists’ alternate destination for viewing the Chocolate Hills, after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol last week.
CHAP is a private-owned tourism site situated in Camanayon, Buenos Aires, Carmen, Bohol. They soft-opened last April.
“The original plan was to have everything in place before the scheduled grand opening.
But things have changed after the earthquake. We have to open the site as part of the countryside tour,” said Jing Velasco, the managing director, who also owns a travel agency and reportedly pioneered the hop-on-hop-off concept in Manila.
CHAP logs an estimate of 80 walk-in guests per day. It anticipates more visitors following the intensive promotions undertaken by the local tourism stakeholders to revive Bohol’s tourism.
“We are working double-time so we can accommodate more tourists,” he said. CHAP currently has 18 employees.
Velasco said the firm allocated an initial P60 million to develop the four-hectare property. At present the company has already developed one-third of the site.
“We want to position CHAP as an eco-park, a green-friendly tourism site,” he said. He noted that they picked Bohol as an investment site because he believes tourism is the next big thing that could propel development in the country.
By November this year, Velasco said, they will be putting in place adrenaline-pumping activities such as a zip line, canopy walk, hiking trail, camp site, and bike rides, among others.
Next year, they will begin the construction of function rooms and some 30 to 40 “glamorized bahay-kubo” for guests who want to stay overnight.
Velasco said what sets the site apart from the others is that it offers another “refreshing panorama” of the famous Chocolate Hills, with a 248-step viewing deck.
The interior design draw inspiration from Velasco’s travels around the world. CHAP also has its own version of Honesty Cafe, a concept he copied from Batanes.
“Honesty is one value that is inherent among Boholanos. This is one culture that we want to highlight here so tourists will never have that fear that people will overcharge or shortchange them,” he said.
Aside from upgrading Bohol’s tourism experience, Velasco also said they are planning to absorb the displaced workers of the damaged Chocolate Hills viewing site in Carmen.
“Tourism is Bohol’s growth driver. More than anything else, we hope to provide employment for the local community. We will absorb those displaced workers as much as we can,” he said. “In fact the Rondalla is here; what we are trying to get are the masseurs.”
CHAP has also dedicated a portion of their site for local souvenir shops.
While Bohol’s tourism is on the road to recovery, local tourism stakeholders are encouraging the local travel market to include Bohol in their itineraries this semestral break.
David Baillie, president of the Alona Beach Community Association Inc. in a separate interview said, now is the high time to visit Bohol because it’s the lean season and most rooms in Panglao Island are offering 20 percent discounts.
According to Baillie, Bohol is still blessed because it has good infrastructure and good road networks that link one town to the other, making the countryside tour up and running.
The Department of Tourism, on the other hand, is beefing up measures to revive tourism in the province.
DOT Assistant Secretary for Tourism Development Planning Rolando Canizal said a team from the United States Agency for International Development is in the province to help in the assessment and rehabilitation plan.
“Tourism here will soon pick up. We are only getting postponement of visits, not really cancellations,” he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 27, 2013.