The Philippine trade is taking steps to rev up tourism in Mindanao, which has stalled due to the declaration of martial law and the three-month-long Marawi war.
On the airlines front, Cebu Pacific will connect Zamboanga to Sandakan, Malaysia in October while Philippine AirAsia will fly from Davao to Kuala Lumpur starting December. New inter-island connections will be launched including Cagayan de Oro to Boracay and Dumaguete for Cebgo and AirAsia’s Davao-Cebu service.
Tourism secretary Wanda Teo said the government will continue promoting Mindanao abroad, emphasising the need to build and restore roads especially in Davao.
Davao, Mindanao’s gateway and most popular destination, has suffered a decline in tourist arrivals of at least 10 per cent in recent months, a situation not unlike other destinations including Cagayan de Oro City.
Blue Horizons Travel and Tours still keeps Davao and Siargao in its brochures, although operations manager Gigi Jamiro advises clients to first check travel warnings issued by their embassies to ensure travel insurance coverage.
“We always tell clients what to expect… and explain that martial law in Mindanao will only be until December this year,” said Jamiro.
But even with the government stressing that governance in Mindanao is not in the style of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, foreigners are fazed by the sheer suggestion of martial law, said a tour operator requesting anonymity.
He is instead developing new and safer destinations, as Mindanao is a hard sell at the moment and its recovery is still uncertain.