THE Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 is aiming to craft a program dedicated to the backpackers market, following Cebu’s recognition as one of the world’s best destinations for backpackers this year by travel website National Geographic.

DOT 7 Directer Rowena Montecillo admitted, though, that tapping this market would be challenging because they are the types that don’t have connections with travel agencies or tour operators.

“We are happy to be recognized as one. This just proves that Cebu is a safe place for backpackers, knowing that nobody arranges travel or tours for them,” said Montecillo. “At present, the DOT 7 has no special program for this market yet, but we are already looking at creating one with the help of our tourism stakeholders.”

Montecillo said she was thankful for the backpackers market, knowing that they are often the ones who discover new sites for Filipino travelers and other tourists to explore on their next trip here. Because this market is inherently adventurous and curious, they reach even far-flung areas that most tourism stakeholders haven’t reached yet.

“They help us discover potential tourism sites. We are thankful for that. Surely, the DOT will reach out to this market and include them in our discussion once we meet with the stakeholders in tourism,” she said.

NatGeoTraveller last Feb. 1 came up with a guide that listed nine of the World’s Best Backpackers Destinations this year. Aside from Cebu, the list included Iceland, Zimbabwe, Eastern Europe (Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia), Turkey, Vietnam, Argentina and Patagonia, Australia and New Zealand, and Colorado, USA.

“After the widespread destruction of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013, the Philippines is poised to become Southeast Asia’s next hot backpacker destination...Head to the central Visayan Islands at the heart of the archipelago, where long, skinny Cebu Island is the perfect hub for exploring the surrounding beaches and volcanic jungles,” the report said.

It described Cebu as having not only a vibrant nightlife scene but also as a convenient jump-off point to coastal hot spots across the island and “outstanding diving sites” in Malapascua and Bantayan Islands.

The report also highlighted Mount Kanlaon National Park on Negros Island, one of the country’s tallest peaks, and Apo Island, which is a marine sanctuary that also offers spectacular dive sites.

The NatGeoTraveller Guide included basic tips helpful especially for first-time backpackers, like tips on how to get to Cebu and its nearby provinces, how to get around, where to stay, what to eat and drink, and when to go.