THE Provincial Tourism Council of Bohol will be launching a fiesta-themed tour as one of its new packages to be offered to foreign tourists soon.
Called the Behold Bohol Fiesta package, the tourism product aims to invite foreign tourists to immerse themselves in the province’s colorful festivities anchored on Boholanos’ strong faith and culture.
Emmylou Palacio-Noel, executive director of Bohol Provincial Tourism Council Inc., said the Province has identified four festivals in Bohol that are celebrated year-round: Ubi Festival in January, town fiestas during the whole month of May, Sandugo Festival in July and sporting events during the fourth quarter of the year, all of which have been cited as potential avenues to attract more tourists who are inclined toward culture, heritage and faith tourism.
“This is another exciting tour package to watch out for, another one that involves active participation of the community,” said Noel.
She added that they have reached out to municipal tourism officers to identify households that would open their doors to tourists and would prefer homemade Filipino fiesta dishes. The tourism council has also involved Bohol’s tour operators to come up with an exciting fiesta package.
“Bohol is known for holding fiestas. We want to capitalize on this strength as our new offering to the tourism market,” said Noel. She believes this package would appeal to European guests, who splurge more on “experiential tourism” activities.
Noel said the initial plan is to bring tourists to at least three houses. The activity is not only limited to food feasts and interaction with locals but also shows how some Filipino dishes are prepared.
Lechon, lumpia, menudo, hamonada, bola-bola, and other pork-based dishes are some of the popular food that Boholanos prepare during fiestas.
Bohol is composed of 47 towns and one city.
The month of May is touted as the province’s month of fiestas, a time of the year where most Boholanos return home to pay homage to their patron saint and celebrate with their relatives.
Judy Gabato, officer-in-charge of Department of Tourism (DOT) 7, said the new tourism offering will reinforce DOT’s push for faith-based tourism. She added that this will also boost the new tourism brand Behold Bohol, which is a result of Bohol, DOT, United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO), USAid and CNN’s collaboration on tourism rehabilitation in 2014.
According to Pew Research Center, religious tourism comprises many facets of the travel industry: pilgrimages, missionary travel, leisure (fellowship) vacations, faith-based cruising, crusades, conventions and rallies, retreats, monastery visits and guest-stays, faith-based camps and religious tourist attractions.
UNWTO declared faith-based tourism has remained strong and grows steadily, despite economic ups and downs.
According to the UNWTO, an estimated 300 to 330 million pilgrims visit the world’s key religious sites every year. Religious travel is estimated to have a a value of $18 billion every year. In the US alone, some 25 percent of the traveling public is interested in faith-based tourism.