TOURIST arrivals in Moalboal in southwest Cebu hit 355,445 in 2022, a sign that tourism in Cebu Province is marching its way to pre-pandemic levels thanks to an aggressive pro-tourism policy initiated by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

According to the town’s records last year, Moalboal registered 264,528 day users who availed themselves of its various activities, such as island-hopping, the famous “Sardine run” and turtle watching. It also tallied 90,917 tourists who stayed for at least one night.

There were 3,777 in February and 6,410 in March, or an increase of 70 percent when Garcia eased the restrictions for tourists.

The move may have created a conflict between Garcia and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), but Moalboal saw tourist arrivals increase by 183 percent in the two months after the governor eased restrictions with 10,716 visiting the town in April.

Mayor Inocentes “Titing” Cabaron said the increase meant more income for their locals, especially those who rely on tourism for their livelihood.

“The increase in the number of tourists last year was a result of Governor Garcia’s order to ease down some of the strict Covid-19 restriction. That is why the tourists visiting our town, especially foreigners, were very happy as it meant traveling without any hassles. Even those managing our tourists destinations are happy as well since it meant a hike in their income,” Cabaron said in Cebuano.

The numbers dropped 10 percent in August, which coincided with the start of classes, but these steadily increased in the last five months of the year with the town registering its highest monthly total of 10,929 in December, despite having its island-hopping activities canceled for five days in the final week due to bad weather.

Cabaron is confident that the numbers will steadily increase this year, especially since Garcia’s daughter, former Liloan mayor and lawyer Christina Frasco, is now in charge of the Department of Tourism (DOT)

Last December, Frasco and her mother led the signing of a memorandum of agreement for the construction of a Tourist Rest Area (TRA) in Moalboal and in Carcar City.

The construction of TRAs is a joint endeavor of the DOT and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, which aims to put up infrastructures where tourists can stay and rest during a visit.

Cabaron said the establishment of a TRA in Moalboal means that the DOT, under Frasco’s leadership, expects more tourists to flock to the town. (JKV, PR)