Clear signs, clean toilets

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Friday, June 20, 2014


WHILE Cebu is known to have “inherently attractive” natural, cultural and historical sites, a study by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) said it still has to raise its tourism competitiveness.

Narzalina Lim, USAid project head and president of Asia Pacific Projects, said Cebu still has a lot to fix in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in 2015. Cebu will also host the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016.

Lim joined the speakers during the Tourism and Investment Forum last Thursday in the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

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A six-member team from USAid toured key areas in the province, namely, Cebu-Mactan, Cebu Transcentral Highway, and Olango-Nalusuan-Hilutungan islands last February and March to examine and assess the quality of tourism products. Last week, the team also visited the northern part of Cebu.

To raise competitiveness, Lim said there are issues that should be given “immediate attention”.

What to do next?

For the Cebu-Mactan sites, Lim said the operation and maintenance of monuments and sites must be institutionalized and there should be a specific group in charge of operating and maintaining these sites on a sustainable basis.

The study also recommended that a budget be appropriated and toilets be upgraded to Southeast Asian standards.

“The current condition of these heritage sites should be a concern for Cebuanos because this is one tourism product that the province has a competitive edge (in),” she said.

Other recommendations include the provision of road signs, rest stops with visitor information and adequate parking. Interpretative plaques that tell a particular story of the attraction should be put in place. Lim said the government can use technology to tell the story.

Merchandising in the different attraction sites should also be upgraded as well as the quality of handicrafts and souvenirs sold. She also urged stakeholders to develop new products.

“The goal here is to increase the $100 average tourist spending. So if we are to put more tourist shops, then tourists will get attracted to buy,” she noted.

The Transcentral Highway, on the other hand, should be positioned as an adventure tourism site, the study said.

Management plan

As for Olango and nearby islands, the study recommended that the stakeholders prepare a management and vision plan to determine the carrying capacity of the islands. They should also strengthen compliance with waste water and solid waste management regulations and develop “fully interpreted” snorkeling trails and mooring points.

Lim said they can take the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as a model for the islands’ improvement.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 2,300 kilometers.

Specifically for Olango, the study recommends an improvement of the four-kilometer road access from the port to the bird sanctuary. It also suggested the use of electric tricycles and the complete construction of the bird sanctuary visitors and
interpretation center.

The assessment team also recommended the development of a safe and secure tourism precinct as a pilot project. Lim said the tourism stakeholders here chose the historic precinct between Colon St. and the Waterfront at Fort San Pedro.

A safe and secure tourism precinct is where: waste is carefully managed; environment is clean and green; visitors and residents can walk around feeling safe and secure; vehicle speeds are regulated; strong stakeholder participation and local community; and tourist can walk from their hotel to restaurant, attraction and night markets, among others.

Deadline: 2015

“Cebu’s hosting of some APEC Events in 2015 is a good occasion to showcase the results of this pilot project,” said Lim.

In a separate forum, Alma Jimenez of the Management Association of the Philippines Asean Integration Committee said that tourism stakeholders should prepare for “a tourism party” as soon as the full integration of Southeast Asian economies happens.

“It would be more fun given the anticipated growth in the number of inbound tourists.

But we should not be complacent. We need to step up tourism because, for one, it helps pick up the slack growth in manufacturing and the lethargic agriculture industry,” said Jimenez.

In 2013, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations recorded 90.2 million tourists in its member-countries.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 21, 2014.

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