Surf’s up: Siargao’s tourism rides high with 323% surge

Ivy Marie Mangadlao

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Surf’s up: Siargao’s tourism rides high with 323% surge

BOARDWALK STROLL. Surfers stroll down a boardwalk after catching some early morning waves at Cloud 9, General Luna in Siargao.

Ivy Marie Mangadlao/Rappler

Siargao Island registers 529,822 tourist arrivals in 2023, an increase from the 125,088 tourists logged in 2022

BUTUAN, Philippines – The country’s premier surfing capital, Siargao, saw a rebound in 2023 with a 323.56% growth in tourist arrivals, a far cry from the period of the slumps recorded in the previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Super Typhoon Odette that devastated the island.

Department of Tourism-Caraga data showed that Siargao Island alone recorded a total of 529,822 tourist arrivals in 2023, an increase from the 125,088 tourists logged in 2022.

Out of these tourists, 476,074 were domestic, and 53,748 were foreign. The most significant growth rate was observed in the foreign arrivals, with a 511.89% increase from 8,784 in 2022.

DOT-Caraga confirmed that tourist arrivals in Siargao for 2023 have already surpassed the pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, before the effects of COVID-19 became pronounced, the island recorded 257,900 tourist arrivals.

DOT-Caraga Director Ivonnie Dumadag said Siargao’s improved accessibility was a key factor contributing to the rise in tourist arrivals.

Pier, Water, Waterfront
VIEW. A view of the boardwalk at Cloud 9 in General Luna, Siargao. Ivy Marie Mangadlao/Rappler

“The department is working hard to advance tourism in various aspects, including skills development, enforcement of standards, and marketing, both domestically and internationally,” she said.

Dumadag noted the importance of accrediting tourism-related enterprises to prevent past issues, as negative experiences in Siargao can quickly spread on social media.

“What we really want to do is to sustain our credibility and reputation in Siargao as a paradise destination because if we keep promoting, and our service providers lack skills and training and are not accredited, it won’t be effective,” she added.

In 2023, Siargao ranked 10th among Asia’s best Islands in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

With the massive increase in tourists, Dumadag said they were preparing as they anticipate an even larger influx for 2024.

Surigao del Norte 1st District Representative Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas II said preparations were also underway for the island’s hosting of the Siargao International Surfing Cup in 2024, featuring an upgraded 5,000 Qualifying Series (QS), an increase from the 3,000 QS in 2023.

“This event is not only about sports but also about tourism; it will draw more tourists to witness the event,” Matugas said.

The 5,000 QS for the Siargao International Surfing Cup, sanctioned by the World Surf League, aims to attract the best surfers from around the world to participate in the competition due to its higher prize money and the increased number of points.

For the overall Caraga region, there were a total of 1.44 million tourists, reflecting a growth rate of 98.83% from 725,266 in 2022.

In terms of tourism receipts, they amounted to a total of P17.304 billion, representing the revenue generated from various tourism-related activities and services in the region.

Dumadag said the DOT has customized its approach for each province in the Caraga based on each area’s unique tourism offerings.

In the case of Dinagat Island, there is a heightened focus on promotion, with the provincial government currently formulating appropriate policies, she said.In Agusan del Sur, the emphasis is on adventure tourism, targeting a specific audience interested in trekking. –

Ivy Marie Mangadlao is a community journalist writing for Mindanews and an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow for 2023-2024.

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