SAN Francisco town in Camotes, Cebu is slowly getting back on its feet after it was badly affected by quarantine restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Tourism activities in the town have started to pick up, with resorts and home-stay accommodations slowly seeing an increase in bookings.

Joel Pulvera, president of San Francisco Tourism Council, said that before the pandemic, accommodations in the town are 70-80 percent occupied, but this has decreased to 15-20 percent since the start of the health crisis.

Since November this year, however, when Cebu province was placed under Alert Level 2 (low risk classification), the council and the San Francisco Hospital Association saw an increase of 30-40 percent in bookings.

Pulvera clarified, however, that most of the visitors are still locals, or those from Cebu, Bohol and Negros.

“Locals pulos ang nakalusot diri sa isla. Pagreopen sa tourism sa isla, ni-increase dayon to 30-40 percent ang atong accommodation,” he said.

Tourism in San Francisco was first reopened around November 2020, but it was closed again to people from outside the island around July 2021 due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in Cebu province.

This time, with Camotes under Alert Level 2, which allows more businesses to operate, Pulvera said they organized all resorts, home-stays and restaurants to help promote the town’s scenic spots and tourism activities.

“Ang San Francisco karon andam nga mudawat sa mga turista, local man o foreign, nga muanhi dinhi tungod kay first of all, ang atong protocols, ato ng natuman,” said Pulvera, citing that all employees of accommodation establishments in the town have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

San Francisco has about 28 resorts and 17 home-stay accommodations, and all are currently ready to accept guests, said Pulvera.

The Municipal Government, headed by Mayor Alfredo Arquillano Jr., has also been encouraging all residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19, as the town targets to vaccinate 80 to 90 percent of its population by the end of this year.

Transportation in the island and from mainland Cebu have also started to pick up, with at least four shipping companies now serving Camotes, said Arquillano.

He said he started talking to these shipping companies to increase the number of trips, so that more tourists can visit the island.

“Nagsige na gyud kog pakiistorya sa mga shipping companies on how we can improve sa transportation diri. Kinahanglan gyud ta og safe and comfortable nga byahe. Mao na nga kinahanglan kaayo nga ma-improve ang services nila ug ang number of trips,” he said.

Arquillano expressed confidence that the situation will improve, stressing that the chances of recovery in the island is very high with people also having a level of awareness to take care of themselves amid the pandemic.

“Diri sa ato, akong nakita lang nga tungod sad lagi nga taas sad ang atong level of awareness to take care of ourselves, mao na nga taas kaayo ang recovery. The chances of recovery is very high,” he said.

The mayor said the Municipal Government is already planning to create a regular transportation route, from the port to resorts, to better accommodate tourists.

“Kami diri, naninguha ra sad mi diri nga ma improve gyud among mga facilities ug services para sa tourism kay nakita nato nga duna tay potential sa atong mga natural resources diri. Malipay kaayo ta nga dunay musuroy nato diri. We welcome them,” Arquillano said.

For his part, Steven Lim, president of the San Francisco Hospital Association, hopes that the number of tourists in the island will continue to increase to help the town recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“So far, karon sa among nakita, level 2 na man ang San Francisco. Mga tourists nangari na, mga locals lang. Mga Koreans, Chinese naghinayhinay na pud og sulod. Hopefully, mabalik na ang number of tourists sa San Fran,” he said.

San Francisco is home to the scenic 648-hectare Lake Danao, one of the biggest lakes in the Visayas. It is also famous for its soli-soli weaving, white sand beaches and caves, among others.