AFTER nearly two years of tourism drought in the country, the regional office of the Department of Tourism-Davao Region (DOT-Davao) is optimistic that the hard-hit sector will bounce back this year as it targets to reach around 1.4 million tourist arrivals in the region by the end of 2022.

DOT-Davao Regional Director Tanya Rabat-Tan said they are banking on the possible resumption of suspended flights to Davao City and the emerging interest of domestic tourists for inter-regional travels as Covid-19 restrictions loosen up.

“We are optimistic as we are slowly welcoming back tourists to the region. We are eyeing a 10 percent increase from our 2021 tourist arrivals at 1,306,732,” she said during the newly launched PEP Talks-tourism and lifestyle forum at the Greenery of SM Lanang Premier Friday, February 25.

Based on the DOT-Davao data, the region’s tourist arrivals plunged in 2020 to 1,391,360 or a 73.32-percent decrease from 5,216,759 in 2019.

“We surpassed our target of 3.7 million (tourist arrivals) in 2019 but the pandemic happened. If we also compare our 2020 and 2021 data, we experienced a slight decrease of 0.06 percent to 1,306,732,” she said.

Resumption of flights

Tan said one of the gains from the International Travel Festival (ITF) in Cebu City last February 18 to 20 were the dialogues they had with the executives of two airlines – Philippine Airlines (PAL) and an international airline.

“On the resumption of flights, we can’t give the specifics yet as it is still not finalized but the year 2022 is very promising,” she said.

Some of the suspended routes due to the pandemic from Davao City were direct international flights to Qatar; Hong Kong; Guangzhou, China; and Indonesia for international, while local routes were Zamboanga; Clark; Bacolod; Siargao; Tacloban; Tagbilaran, Bohol; Cagayan de Oro; and Dumaguete.

“The executives of the airlines that we talked to also hinted that they will increase their flight frequencies for their existing routes,” she said.

Other significant gains from the participation of the 29-person delegation of Davao Region to ITF Cebu were the showcase of the DOT-Davao promotional video and introduction of new tourism circuits.

Foreign tourists

Tan also said since the Philippines opened its doors to leisure travel for foreign tourists on February 10, the region has already welcomed a total of 224 foreign tourists as of February 23.

At present, Davao International Airport has flights to and from Singapore served by Scoot Tigerair and Dubai served by PAL and Cebu Pacific.

“These 224 passengers visited Davao for tourism purposes. Some are also in transit. As to the domestic entry, we have yet to receive data from the LGUs (local government units),” Tan said.

Profiles of tourists are Australian, American, British, German, Singaporean, Japanese, Indian, Belgian, among others.

New tourism circuits

The tourism regional head also said while the pandemic was ongoing, they saw it as an opportunity to conduct a series of validations to form new tourism circuits in the region as new offerings to tourists.

“During our participation in ITF, we shared with the travel agents our newly-formed circuits, asking them to help sell our products in Davao Region. We emphasized there that Davao is very much open and that they are welcome and safe to visit here,” she said, adding a lot were interested in the diverse tourism products of the region.

In Davao de Oro, DOT-Davao is promoting the Coastal loop, Wellness Loop, and Highland to Valley loop as new tourism circuits while in Davao Oriental East coast tourism circuit (culture and heritage, waterfalls), Gulf town tourism circuit (dive, highland adventures), and Focus Destination: Dahican (sun and beach tourism) were being pushed.

Meanwhile, faith tourism and extreme adventure are being eyed in Davao Occidental. In Davao del Sur, tourists are also invited to try its rich culture, eco-adventures, agri-tourism, culinary, and highland leisure.

For Davao del Norte, some of the identified tourism activities are highland eco-adventures, sun and beach tourism, agri-ecotourism, culture and traditions, and Mice or meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions.

Davao City also banks on Mice tourism circuits, community-based tourism, farm tourism, culinary tourism circuit, and city and countryside tours.

Tourist guidelines

Davao City Tourism Operations Office Head and Airport Monitoring Head Generose Tecson in a recent report in SunStar Davao said fully vaccinated international flight passengers traveling to Davao City will no longer be required to undergo facility-based quarantine.

This is an order in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It also applies to both Filipino tourists and residents, and foreign tourists from visa-free countries effective Thursday, February 10.

Moreover, the City Government of Davao is not keen on reimposing the “test before travel” policy for arriving domestic air passengers.