THE Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 11 is planning to forge partnership with the various tourism stakeholders in Cebu to highlight and market Cebu and Davao as complementary destinations to both foreign and local tourists.
Although, collaborations have been planned in the past to boost tourism in both regions, DOT 11 Director Art Boncato Jr., said the plans did not materialize as both regions were busy strengthening their respective industries.
He said now that Cebu has already strengthened its footing in tourism, they can now pursue a strategic partnership.
Boncato said they invited 30 members of the Cebu Association of Tour Operators (Cato) for a familiarization tour in Davao City this coming June.
“They have been hearing a lot of developments in Davao but they haven’t been here,” he said.
After the familiarization tour, some tourism stakeholders of Davao will also visit Cebu. Boncato said they hope to capture the same markets of Cebu, given its numerous direct flights from overseas markets.
Region 11 covers the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela. Boncato said the region is known as an eco-adventure destination, thus its tourism tagline “from islands to highlands.”
Among the key tourism spots in the region is Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the country that is popular as climbing destination, and the Island Garden of Samal, which Boncato described as an “eco-tourism portal” because of its white sand beaches and rich marine resources.
Despite these products, however, Boncato said they have not attracted a large number of foreign tourists, unlike Cebu, because of the lack of connectivity to big markets like Korea. Davao only has one direct international flight to Singapore.
He said they are asking airline companies to mount Davao-South Korea direct flights.
They are also asking other companies to consider Davao as a destination. He said they have submitted proposals to Silkair, Airbus, Gin Air, Air Busan and Asiana.
Region 11 recorded 1.2 million in tourist arrivals last year. In the past five years the region’s tourism growth was five to eight percent yearly.
“We are catching up,” he said. The region’s top three travel markets are from the US, Japan and Korea. Most of the region’s tourists are locals.
Boncato remains optimistic that number of arrivals would go higher, given both the government and private’s aggressive marketing campaigns.
“We are giving more reasons for people to come here,” he said.
He, however, downplayed the peace and order situation as major problem in attracting guests saying that if that were the issue, then big investors like Ayala and SM would not consider placing huge investments in Davao.
“Davao is a success story of Mindanao,” he said.
Davao City is also positioning itself to be one of the country’s ideal destinations for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice).
“This is the market we want to grow aside from the leisure travelers,” said Boncato.
Park Inn by Radisson Davao pledged they would work with their sister company Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu and partner with the DOT to bring in more tourists to Davao.
Park Inn is one of the newest hotels in Davao which opened last month. The hotel is part of the property portfolio of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp., a subsidiary of SM Investments Corp.
SM invested P700 million for the facility.
Since its opening, Geir Sikko, the hotel’s general manager said they have been logging an average occupancy of 40 percent. They target a 50 percent occupancy rate this year.
Hotel industry occupancy rate in Davao is 65 percent.
Park Inn Davao is marketed as the first “next generation” mid-scale Park Inn by Radisson and established in Asia Pacific. The company said it is meant for “savvy business and leisure travelers seeking an outstanding hotel experience.”
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the firm that operates Park Inn, is confident the hotel will set a new hospitality benchmark in the growing mid-scale segment in the country.
Simon Barlow, president, Asia Pacific, of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group said he believes the hotel and brand will attract the country’s growing domestic market of 35 million travelers “seeking affordable accommodation that is fresh and uncomplicated.”