Cebu’s tourism remains vibrant despite foreign travel warnings
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu continues to be one of the country’s favorite destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists despite the travel advisories issued by foreign embassies and the security threats earlier this year.
Data released by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas showed that from January to April 2017, Cebu welcomed close to 1.5 million local and international tourists, up by 4.16% from 1.43 million visitors during the same 4-month period in 2016.
Cebu’s tourism data was on the rise even as tourist arrivals in the entire Central Visayas – which covers the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor – dipped by 3.02%.
British and French tourists were leading the international visitors to the region during the said period.
“The figures are but confirmation that Cebu, internationally, has truly become a favorite travel destination despite the advisories issued by other countries,” said Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III on Thursday, September 28.
The spate of travel advisories started in November 2016, when the United States issued an alert warning to its nationals travelling to Southern Cebu. The advisory was based on intelligence information that terrorists groups were planning to conduct kidnappings in some of Cebu's tourist spots and resorts. Other countries, including Great Britain, also issued warnings last year.
In April 2017, the US again issued a warning for Americans traveling to Cebu and Central Visayas. The travel advisory on the US embassy’s website advised US citizens “to carefully consider this information as you make your travel plans, and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times.”
On April 11, members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group clashed with government troops in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, in Bohol. Three soldiers, a policeman, and 11 ASG members were killed in the clashes.
Last Tuesday, the Police Regional Office (PRO) VII urged foreign embassies, including the US, Australia, Canada, France, and New Zealand, to lift the travel advisories they issued last year and early this year for Central Visayas, particularly for Southern Cebu.
Regional Intelligence Division 7 chief Superintendent Jonathan Cabal said Southern Cebu is very peaceful and manageable.
"I find it difficult to comprehend that the advisories given by foreign embassies since last year have not been lifted yet," Cabal told reporters, adding that Southern Cebu is very peaceful.
Davide told Rappler on Thursday that he supports the position of the PRO 7, which he said is the right agency to determine the peace and order situation of the region, including the province of Cebu.
“I am convinced that Cebu is very safe and there is no need for a travel advisory or ban,” Davide said.
In fact, the governor said, the province has been labeled as the Tourism Gateway for the Central and Southern Philippines after cornering approximately 35%of the country’s foreign visitors in the first 4 months of 2017.
The province of Cebu and DOT signed an agreement on September 28 with two institutions of higher learning in Singapore – Temasek Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic – for a 36-month tourism and hospitality capability development program in the province. – Rappler.com