'Resilient' Bohol tourism hopes to weather security woes after ASG foray

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2017 06:53 PM | Updated as of Apr 11 2017 07:31 PM

MANILA - Security concerns are unlikely to dent the long-term potential of Bohol as a tourist destination, even as it can temporarily scare away foreigners, the head of the island's tourism council said.

At least 9 people were killed after security forces clashed with suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists in the coastal town of Inabanga on Tuesday, just days after the United States issued a travel warning in the region due to an alleged kidnapping threat.

Chocolate Hills, Bohol. Karen Flores, ABS-CBN News

Inabanga is around 2 hours from the white sand resort strip of Panglao and around an hour from the Chocolate Hills, said Lucas Nunag, chairman of the Bohol Provincial Tourism Council.

“Our tourism industry is very resilient,” Nunag told ABS-CBN News, noting how the province recovered from the 2013 earthquake that leveled century-old churches.

“It’s very likely that there will be some cancellations but this will be temporary,” said Nunag, who operates a 32-room hotel.

Foreigners are likely to follow travel warnings, which local travelers generally ignore, he said. Hotel rooms are fully booked for the Holy Week break, he said.

Tourist arrivals last year reached around 800,000 based on preliminary data and could reach more than 1 million this year, compared to 600,000 before the September 2013 quake, he said.

Increased frequencies of flights and inter-island ferry services have helped boost tourist traffic, which could increase with the opening of an international airport, he said.

Local tourists compose roughly 60 percent of tourist arrivals in the province. Foreign visitors are mostly from China, South Korea, the US and Europe, he said.

File photo of a tarsier in Bohol. Erik de Castro, Reuters

Bohol is a major tourist destination, where tourists swim with whale sharks and marvel at tiny primates called tarsiers, go on cruises aboard boats on crystal-clear rivers, and lounge at white-sand beaches.

File photo of Loboc river, Bohol. Karen Flores, ABS-CBN News

 

Because of its popularity with tourists, Bohol is getting a new airport at a cost of P7.77 billion. 

At present, the province's Tagbilaran Airport can accommodate 900,000 passengers yearly.

The New Bohol Airport, which will be located on Panglao island will serve over 1.9 million passengers yearly. 

Nunag said the island’s beaches have grown in popularity as wedding destinations. 

Bohol has been declared "insurgency free" by the military for over a decade. 

Bohol has been declared "insurgency free" by the military for over a decade.