Bohol, which edged its way to the Philippines’ top three leisure destinations since reopening in mid-December, has launched a massive tourism campaign on Wednesday to jumpstart domestic arrivals.
It alternates with Palawan for the second and third places, after tourists’ top favourite Boracay.
The initiatives include discounts of up to 70 per cent offered by 20 hotels, resorts and tour operators under the Balik sa Bohol (Return to Bohol) online sale, which will be held from February 21 to March 14.
Vouchers have a minimum validity of one year but sellers are flexible with extension of the validity via the website, traveloco.ph/balikbohol.
Bluewater Resorts vice president sales and marketing, Margie Munsayac, said that “Bohol is really foremost a leisure destination” but they also “encourage small and intimate MICE and social events” which can “secure better perks than the Return to Bohol online sale depending on the season, number of persons, size of the events” which are subjected to capacity limits based on safe distancing measures.
Munsayac also said that part of the marketing tack for Bohol are “new developments to ensure that the products, destination and protocols are in place so travellers can feel confident about making Bohol as their primary destination once they decide to travel”.
New developments include a soon-to-launch ad campaign targeted at families instead of just individual divers to debunk the misconception that diving is exclusively for privileged adults, said Panglao mayor Leonila Montero.
Set to debut too are new countryside tourism circuits anchored not just on sun and sand, but also nature, agri-tourism, historical and heritage sites, given that Bohol has a plethora of architectural heritage houses and the most number of heritage churches in the Philippines, said Bohol Provincial Tourism Council chair Lucas Nunag.
To celebrate the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines this year, Bohol governor Arthur Yap said that festivities will include a tour of national heritage churches and other historical sites with accompanying cultural performances. “We’re also thinking of featuring markets along the way for local delicacies, local crafts and products,” he added.
Yap said that out of the 14 national heritage churches damaged by the earthquake several years ago, only four remain unrepaired but they’re all scheduled for repair.
Both the Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board are already lending support to Bohol by heavily marketing and promoting it in the travel trade and social media as a multi-faceted destination offering not just white sand and marine activities, but also art, music, nature, eco-tourism, and a long history dating back to the Spanish.
Currently, only Panglao and Anda are open to tourists. “But we are just waiting for the other towns to open. We don’t want to force all towns to open unless they are ready,” said Yap.
Apart from investing in its own Covid-19 test laboratories, Yap also said that Bohol has relaxed travel restrictions and harmonised them with the national government rules and protocols. The province is already accepting saliva tests in place of the Covid-19 PCR swab tests and quarantine is not required, among other things.
Yap said that tourists are required to produce a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of travel, and confirmed booking at a Department of Tourism (DoT)-accredited hotel. Tourists must also register through the Bohol Tourist Registration portal via tourism.bohol.gov.ph, and for those going on tour, a confirmed tour booking through a DoT-accredited tour operator must be presented.