Tourist arrivals to pick up as int’l mag cites Siargao

By : Erwin Mascariñas Mindanao Today/09:10:28pm 07/28/2021


PICKING UP. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, boats carrying tourists lined up on the white sand beach of Daku Island in General Luna, Siargao, Surigao del Norte. (Erwin Mascariñas)

BUTUAN CITY – The regional tourism office here expressed optimism that they are expecting the tourist arrivals in Siargao Island to slowly increase in the next few months amid the Covid-19 restrictions after the island was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 of the world's greatest places for 2021.

On July 20, Time Magazine published a compilation of what they considered as World’s Greatest Places of 2021: 100 extraordinary destinations to explore and only Siargao Island in the province of Surigao del Norte made it on the list among all the other top destinations in the Philippines.

According to the magazine, their third annual list of the World’s Greatest Places is a tribute to the people and businesses at the forefront of those industries who, amid extraordinary circumstances, found ways to adapt, build and innovate.

The compilation shines a light on ingenuity, creativity, revitalization and reopening in destinations across the world.

The list is based on solicited nominations from the magazine's international network of correspondents and contributors, with an eye toward those offering new and exciting experiences.

Nelia Arina, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Caraga, pointed out that it is

an honor to be recognized as the top destination in the Philippines and believes that having Siargao Island included on the list will help the tourism economy of the region regain its footing.

“With the recognition that Siargao has been getting in the international tourism scene, we are hoping for a gradual increase in foreign tourist arrivals and even tourist from other parts of the country, as more people abroad and in the Philippines had been fully vaccinated and are willing to take the RT-PCR test to go on vacation in Siargao,” said Arina.

Arina stated that amid the travel requirements in place, the daily arrivals of tourists in Siargao Island with flights from Manila and Cebu has increased.

According to the data provided by the municipal tourism office of Del Carmen, as for the flight schedule for the month of July, they are expecting once to as high as four flights a day from either Cebu or Metro Manila, landing in Sayak airport in Del Carmen through Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines with 50 to 70 passengers on each flight.

“We hope that with tourist arrivals slowly increasing in the island, this will also trickle down towards our struggling tourism industry like our boat operators which has been very much affected by the pandemic,” said Lanie Lipio, municipal tourism officer in the town of Del Carmen.

Lipio pointed out that before the pandemic the town had around 125 tourist boats operating employing around 375 individuals, all the boats operate daily to a maximum of two to three trips a day.

“During the height of the travel restrictions, when the trips to Siargao were not allowed for several months, most of those working in our tourism sector, especially our boat operators, were very much affected. Today with tourist arrivals slowly increasing, we have more than 90 boats operating, although not on a daily basis as before but still a good sign as our tourism industry slowly recovers,” said Lipio.

Not to be complacent

While the daily flights to Siargao have slowly perked up, the regional tourism office warns local government units in the island not to be complacent in implementing health protocols.

“We may be excited for more tourists to come and visit but we have to be real in terms of dealing with the reality of the Covid-19 and the dangers that it may bring to our local islanders. The island may have a district hospital but we still lack the proper medical facilities, that’s why we really need to follow the guidelines properly,” said Arina.

Several of the tourists who are going to Siargao claimed that their travel would have been a lot easier if the RT-PCR tests requirement would have been eased off especially for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Authorities in Siargao Island expressed that one of the reasons that RT-PCR are still required even for travelers who are fully vaccinated are the unregulated vaccination card that is often being copied and counterfeited as each of the different cities and towns have different designs and printing for their vaccination cards.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Caraga pointed out that while they recognize the problem, the data base on those who are fully vaccinated residents are still being processed and pointed out that with the massive data needed to be encoded daily, their system could not cope up.

“While we hope that we will be able to update the database for easy access and validation of travelers, we are still in the process of making it 100% updated. We are continuously coordinating with our partners and LGU’s to update and make the data on time,” said Dr. Sadaila Reki-In, assistant regional director of DOH-13.

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