TOURISM enterprises and products in Eastern Visayas became the center of attraction, as the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office hosted the first-ever hybrid edition of the Regional Travel Fair organized by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), an attached agency of the tourism department.

“It’s high time that we remind everybody that Region 8 is here. Region 8 has so much to offer when it comes to sites, tourism activities, with our food and people,” said Karen Tiopes, regional tourism director.

From August 6 to 8, 2021, a total of 54 sellers from the six provinces in Eastern Visayas and 85 buyers from various regions in the country participated in the online event highlighting tourist destinations, accommodation facilities, and other tourism-related services that the region offers held at the Summit Hotel in Tacloban City.

"We want to focus on the diverse product, the richness of your culture, the beauty that everybody of us will have a chance to visit Eastern Visayas once this pandemic is over, with the offer of your Infinite Escapes," Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, TBP chief operating officer, said during the event.

“We will pave the way for our tourism to bounce back for the sake of those who depend for their livelihood, and for the tourism community to gradually recover from the adverse impact of this pandemic,” added DOT Secretary Bernadette Puyat, who delivered her message virtually while lauding Tiopes and the regional tourism office’s effort to develop new tourism product offering in Eastern Visayas.

The “7th Regional Travel Fair Hybrid Edition: Infinite Escapes Eastern” was highlighted by the hybrid business-to-business sessions, with participants using a link that gives them access to a portal to display and present their products and to meet prospect buyers and do business.

As part of the safe meet-ups, participants at the venue had to submit to an antigen test.

According to Allones, the use of hybrid format for travel fair “introduces sellers and buyers to the concept of using technology in promoting tourism products.”

Meanwhile, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla maintained that the region’s local tourism industry “is thriving, showing resiliency by fighting the effects of the pandemic.”

“The sooner we defeat Covid-19, the better for our tourism sector, because our tourism sector is one if not the worst-hit industry by the pandemic. That is why here in the province of Leyte, we try to relax some of our protocols to allow businesses like hotels to resume operation,” the governor said.

“But when you come, you should follow all health protocols. We need people to be responsible and be observant of the health protocols. We are not that strict, what we only asked from you is to properly wear face masks, and wear face shields,” added Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

Sellers that presented their products during the consumer show included travel and tour agencies Leyte Gulf Travel and Tour, Kamp Kolambu, Gusto Avventura Travel and Tours, Hero Travel Solutions, SMR Travel and Tours, and Budgetmate Travel and Tours, along with Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines in the transport sector.

For accommodation, Hotel XYZ, Caluwayan Palm Island Beach Resort and Restaurant, M Grand Royale, Summit Hotel, Piňa Suites, and Nasakaseco were present.

Sogod Bay Scuba Resort and Southern Leyte divers for dive resort; Villa Conzoilo Farm, and Beengo Farm for fun farms; and Samar Community-based Tourism Sites, Leyte Bike Tours, LaraPh, and Eastern Samar Surfing also joined the event for destinations and tourism products.

The travel fair also highlighted Eastern Visayas Food Culture dubbed as “Sumsuman ha Tarangka-an” by chef Mark Reynan Campado Sabayan, who prepared food fusion of sinugba and kinilaw, two popular dishes found in most occasions and drinking sessions of locals.

Other upcoming tourism activities in the region are the Sinugdan Quincentinnial Tour, involving the seven historical stone churches at the Diocese of Maasin and Limasawa Island, the Guiuan-Balangiga Ancestry Tour, the Barubaybay Mangrove Ecopark and Marine Conservation in Calbiga town, the Sogod Bay Dive Site, and the soon-to-be-developed Leyte cyclotour.

The TPB will conduct another regional travel fair before the end of this year, with Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) as host. (SunStar Philippines)