Haiyan, with wind speeds reaching up to 300 km/h hit the Philippines in November 2013. Eastern Visayas was one of the most affected. With the region already one of the poorest in the country, Haiyan couldn’t have hit in a worse place. Destroying lives, infrastructures, and sources of livelihood for most inhabitants of the region. Almost all economic sectors were heavily damaged and impaired.
Except for Tourism.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, administrative officer in the Department of Tourism Brett De Los Santos said that of all the industries here, only tourism was not affected by Yolanda. It was tourism who even helped revive the economy. The rise of new, and even the renovation of existing, hotels and restaurant and the sudden visibility of foreign nationals going around the city at a considerable rate are indicators of this. This blog attempts to elaborate on those points and also on LGU focus and on the issues of tourism in Eastern Visayas, particularly in the city of Tacloban.
On Tourist Arrivals
True enough, tourist arrivals did increase, according to the DOT 8 report on regional tourist arrivals from 2012-2015.
In 2015, the regional office of DOT celebrated making history for reaching a total of 1,099,489 total visitors. An impressive feat considering the number from 2012 almost doubled in just 3 years. Although not part of the main sources of income in the region, tourism contributes significantly. Earning 7.09 billion pesos in 2014 and 9.20 billion pesos in 2015 according to visitor receipts. Making it an upcoming source of revenue for the region.
The years after Haiyan struck (2013), was when the highest rise in tourist arrivals were recorded, with a consistent 30-40% increase of arrivals each year from 2012-2014. In fact, 2013 was the highest rise in tourist arrivals with a 43.17% increase from 2012. The following reasons are highlighted by the why this was so:
- One is being recognized by the international market due to international media exposure of the region such as the visit of Pope Francis, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Representative of UN Secretary General Margareta Wahlstrom and other dignitaries;
- Another reason was the creation of new attractions after the typhoon, most of which are memorial sites, like the boat in Anibong and the memorial in Astrodome which fascinate tourists around the world;
- Tourism-related establishments also played significant roles which contributed largely to the strong performance of the tourism industry such as the opening of new hotels and restaurants and the rehabilitation of the existing hotels and restaurants damaged from Haiyan;
- Also, intensified marketing campaigns of tourism products, assets and activities in the region played a part to the recovery initiatives for the industry by the LGUs;
- And another, more observable occurrence, is the influx of INGO’s, NGO and “volun-tourists” (combined tourist who do volunteer work as an addition to their vacation or as their main purpose for travelling) who came to the region to provide aid after the Haiyan who also became tourists because of the fact that they traveled and spent money on establishments during their work or even in their free time (VFV, 2016).
Tourism in Tacloban City
Tacloban City, arguably one of the most devastated areas during Haiyan, has the largest number of Accommodation Establishments (AEs) among the cities in the region with a total of 26.67% regional share of accommodation establishments, almost a half more than Ormoc city, the 2nd largest with 13.07% regional share. This meant that Tacloban has more capacity in terms for overnight occupancy.
The table above shows that even before Haiyan, Tacloban had a clear lead on Accommodation Facilities from all other cities in the region, and this did not change even after Haiyan. And as of Dec. 15, 2015 there are 59 Accommodation Establishments in the City according to the City’s directory.
In 2015, the city yielded the highest contribution of tourists with 472,300 arrivals. As seen in the table below, Tacloban has always enjoyed the majority of the shares among tourist arrivals even before the storm in region VIII. With almost a 30-40% lead from other places.
|Tacloban City Tourist Arrivals (Total Regional Share %)||190,674 (38.88%)||306,300 (43.17%)||376,574 (39.07%)||472,300 (42.96%)|
|Next-Highest Tourist Arrivals (Total Regional Share %)||77,564 (15.81%)||57,378 (8.09%)||95,157 (9.87%)||99,897 (9.09%)|
The table shows the number and percentage of tourist arrivals to the total regional count in Tacloban City and the second-highest. Tourist arrivals are counted based on the number of “check-ins” in Tourist Accommodation Establishments.
Accommodation Establishments (AE) and availability of rooms in the area are considered common indicators and factors that determine a performance of a local industry for tourism which indirectly affect the increase or decrease of their tourist arrivals.
Therefore we argue that tourist arrivals and number of AE are correlated to each other (tourist arrivals require lodging for overnight stay). The rise of tourist accommodation establishments we argue, can be seen as proportional to the rise of arrivals.
In the case of Tacloban City, even if the most visited tourist spots are from outisde the city, only day-visitor excusionists can be expected in the province as most tourists spots such as the Sohoton Cave in Basey, Calbiga Cave, and etcetera are located near the cities, where tourists can stay overnight with more comfortable and preferred accommodation and accessible to/availability of facilities, such as Tacloban (DOT Industry Performance Report, 2015). This can mean that the trend of the AE drive is self-reinforcing through regional practices. Such as provincial spots do not focus too much on AE’s as tourists prefer cities for overnight stay, and vice versa for cities.
The role and focus of LGUs are also seen to have changed. According to the City Tourism Office, we should capitalize in improving tourist destinations that is most suitable for the City like improving the historical and cultural sites. Before Haiyan, the focus of Tacloban was to improve its tourism sites which were cultural and historical in nature. The “City Tour and the Environs” was the main tour package in Tacloban City which includes a heritage tour of the City Capitol, Sto. Nino Shrine, Price Mansion, Redona House, and others.
After Haiyan, although the previous programs were still of importance, there was a considerable shift of the focus to improve tourism infrastructures such as hotels and restaurant. This was due to the fact that because of the geographical placement of Tacloban (being the gateway of Eastern Visayas), it was seen that focusing on infrastructures would provide more positive results. As Trina Dacuycuy of DOT 8 summarized; “Tourism compared to agriculture is quicker”. Referring onto how easier tourism became here after international attention.
Also, after the storm the LGUs of tourism in the region saw the need for improvement in issues such as in AE and destination risk/vulnerability assessment and planning, climate change adaptation, the strengthening of responsibility of the AE to their staying tourists by AE-level Evacuation Plan and tracking of guests, the need for an effective communication plan, and DRRM Capacity Building.
On Local Businesses related to Tourism
Tourism as a business is seen as booming in Tacloban. According to an assistant manager of a certain hotel in Tacloban:
“Para ha amun is booming talaga it tourism ha atun. Kay damo it na travel. Like for every time na nacelebrate kita hit Yolanda, always fully booked talaga.”
(For us, tourism is really booming here. Because there are a lot who travel, like for every time we celebrate the Yolanda [memorial], we are always fully booked). Although the respondent hotel was built after they typhoon struck, according to him Tacloban was already booming (on the Tourism sector) before and after the typhoon, citing the above statement as an example.
Hotel accommodation structures after Haiyan is also considerably better than pre-Haiyan according to Trina Dacuycuy of DOT 8. Of course if you are a Taclobanon you can really see how the state of hotel establishments changed before and after. Most of them are seen to be modernizing, like creating webpages for the hotel to encourage online booking and adapting to more updated building and interior designs, to attract more tourists.
On Motivators and Concerns
Entrepreneurs pursue hotel accommodations because travelling is a lot easier nowadays said one of our respondents. People are now engaged in travelling. From reserving a hotel room to booking an airline ticket, everything is in the palm of your hands. And with the colorful history and the international attention that Haiyan brought, Region VIII is contestably becoming one of the tourist destinations of the Philippines with Tacloban city as its tourist accommodation center.
But concerns of inequality still rise, one respondent said that people think that business is booming when in fact it is not, because of the boom of travel accommodation establishments, competition becomes high. That according to our respondent some will even resort to shady transactions in order to keep in business. Whether these claims are true or not, it is important for LGU bodies to keep in mind that growth should be inclusive and free from corruption.
Tourism is considered an up-and-coming industry in our region, especially in Tacloban. After the international media exposure and the influx of INGOs and NGOs during Yolanda, region 8, especially Tacloban City experienced increase of tourist arrivals at a considerable rate. Encouraging local businessmen in investing at hotel accommodation structures such hotels and restaurants. But this was not without the participation of LGUs, who with their constant campaigning and information drive, made tourists confident in coming to region 8. Other than that that, LGUs such as the Department of Tourism and the City Tourism office also does not really have that much interaction with hotel owners aside from the occasional meeting by the DOT and doesn’t directly affect the hotel accommodation sectors. An example would be that no sanctions would be imposed on hotel owners if they are not accredited by the DOT. Additionally issues like sustaining the tourist arrivals, and that not all tourist accommodation structures can feel the boom of the industry need to be addressed to give the high level of tourist satisfaction that promotes inclusive growth to the tourist economy.