THE Davao City tourism sector remains optimistic amid a dip in tourism arrivals in Davao Region.

On Tuesday, February 8, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Davao Director Maria Lourdes Lim reported a -3.9 percent total decline that equates to 1,306,732 arrivals in 2021 from the 1,360,168 in 2020.

Of this number, overseas Filipinos had the biggest decline with a -84.9 percent or 1,091 arrivals in 2021 from 7,266 in 2020, followed by foreign travel with -74.7 percent decline or 8,571 arrivals in 2021 from 33,915 in 2020.

"(The tourism industry) was greatly affected by travel restrictions and border closures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic," said Lim during a virtual presser on February 7.

But domestic arrivals were only slightly affected and declined by -1.6 percent. The year 2021 saw 1,297,070 arrivals compared to the 1,318,987 in 2020.

Cherry Al-ag, president of the Davao Tourism Association (Data), said that although the region saw a decline as a whole, the domestic market in Davao City has improved especially from local tourists who are eager to travel within the Davao bubble.

"The concept of a travel bubble also came about which means that in certain regions or areas, people were more confident were to go out just within their (communities)," Al-ag told SunStar Davao on Wednesday, February 9.

"We definitely lost many from the foreign market but the local travelers made up for it," she added, referring to the observation on Dabawenyos supporting local businesses in Davao City.

Al-ag said indicators for this improvement was better performance in the private sector such as an increase in ticket sales, and hotel and restaurant sales.

Data from Neda showed that as of the third quarter of 2021, tourist receipts increased by 37 percent to P4.068 billion from P2.968 billion in the same period in 2020.

"Starting 2021, we have seen more people coming to Davao, those who are workers, those who have families. So in short, the ticket sales would also be an indicator. You would notice that hotel lobbies are busy, we see that families are now more confident to go out," said Al-ag.

The Data president attributes the improved tourism in Davao City to the vaccination drive for tourism workers, particularly the Bakuna by the Sea initiative, which vaccinated at least 16,000 individuals.

"It really brought increased opportunities. The workers were able to go back to work earlier than other sectors. Also, guests, Davao tourists are more confident to go to our establishments na," said Al-ag.

In addition, regional director Lim said the tourism industry is now more equipped and knowledgeable to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic by implementing the proper safety protocols in their establishments.

Moving forward, both Lim and Al-ag are optimistic for a better tourism performance in Davao for 2022.

Lim said entry protocols and tourism recovery plans are being discussed by the Department of Tourism-Davao and stakeholders.

Tourism destinations are also being developed, along with a tourism travel circuit that will feature eco-tourism activities among others.

"The tour circuit will be creating more value in every business or activity in a certain area," said Al-ag.