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Mindanao tourism body calls for new packages

The newly formed Mindanao Tourism Council is concerned over the dearth of new travel packages offered by Mindanao tour operators that could attract travelers even from within the island.

Dindo T. Ilagan, council chairman, said new attractions are needed with the global economic slowdown forcing tour operators to rethink their market and foreign tourists scrimping on travel in favor of basic necessities.

With this environment, there is a need to find new tour packages other than the usual beaches, mountains, and cultural sites in order to meet the discriminating demand from travelers.

"We need to have a unified, concerted effort to develop tourism, and our approach is, let’s target tourists from Mindanao first," he said.

The Davao Region alone, he added, has a couple of million potential tourists enough to support the island’s tourism industry.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for Mindanao tourism is the undeserved reputation of the island as a war-torn area.

By enticing Mindanao tourists to cross regions within the island, the council hopes it will create a ripple effect for visitors in Luzon and the Visayas to also check out the sites in Mindanao.

He said adventure tourism is still the way to go for Mindanao, and tour operators can take advantage of the number of zipline, spelunking, and diving activities sprouting all across the island to entice locals into testing their limits.

With this in mind, tour operators in Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte, are offering a two-day and three-night all-inclusive package for Gloria’s Fantasyland that features 35 amusement rides, a commercial complex which includes a bowling alley and darts hall, beauty and recreation centers, Internet cafes, restaurants, gym, souvenir shops, and convenience centers for P6,000.

However, he quickly added the P6,000 will not include transportation costs going to Dapitan. "Once you are in the port, we will fetch you," he said.

Arecili L. Ayuste, Davao Region Tourism Council head, confirmed the observation that there’s lack of new creative packages for the island.

She said with the rich flora and fauna endemic to Mindanao, tour operators could even offer safari packages to differentiate from the usual mountain resorts and white beaches that are also offered in Luzon and Visayas.

But Ms. Ayuste said convenience should be the primary concern when offering packages.

She said it’s especially difficult when the destination is a newly discovered one, which means accommodation and infrastructure could be a problem.

Last August, tourism sector unveiled a P1-million three-dimensional topographical map showing the highways and bridges that connect key destinations spots in Mindanao to help would-be travelers plan their routes. -- Joel B. Escovilla, Business World

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