Tour groups cancel trips

Katlene O. Cacho

WHILE most hotels and resorts in Mactan currently enjoy high occupancy rate this season, they aren’t spared from the booking cancellations brought about by the travel warnings issued by some countries.

“There is minor cancellation on some hotels in Mactan, maybe five to 10 percent. But in general hotels in Mactan are enjoying high occupancy,” said Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu president Carlo Suarez yesterday, adding that these cancellations are mostly from independent travelers or those vacationing with self-booked itineraries.

Cebu Association of Tour Operator Specialists president Alice Queblatin confirmed that there have been cancellations from Japan and Korea. These markets are Central Visayas’ top two sources of foreign arrivals.

“We’ve been receiving some cancellations from individual travelers but no major cancellations,” Myra Regner, director of sales and marketing of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa. As of Thursday, the five star resort was fully-booked.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, likewise, reported postponement of bookings from foreign guests. But Efren Belarmino, the resort’s general manager, clarified that these are just minimal movements in bookings and that they enjoy a good occupancy this summer season.

“Thank God, we are not affected here in Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort,” said Rhyz Buac, the resort’s general manager. The resort is logging an 89-percent occupancy this month.

Tourists continue to visit Central Visayas amid the threat of terrorism and presence of travel warnings, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo assured the public that it is safe to travel to Bohol and the Visayas, even after recent developments.

Big groups

Rajah Tours Philippines reported that there were 500 travelers from Japan who cancelled their trip to Cebu. This group would have spent about P30 million in the country, according to Alejandra Clemente, chair of Rajah Tours. She added that the recent encounter in Bohol has led to the cancellation of bookings from major markets in Japan, United States and Europe.

The DOT also received reports of 150 cancelled trips from the Korean market due to threats of terrorism.

But the agency maintains that any minor decline in tourism numbers in the coming months will not affect the target of acquiring 6.5 to seven million foreign tourist arrivals by yearend.

“Every time there are travel advisories, tourism numbers lie low for a while. But after a month, tourists return. Cancellations are minimal,” said Teo, in a PNA news report.

Optimistic

Despite some cancellations, there are some groups that are still pushing through with their travel to Visayas.

DOT undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. disclosed that a high-profile Japanese TV production team from Kansai is pushing through with its plan to shoot in Cebu despite concerns on tourism safety.

Moreover, several foreign tour operators, including an 80-member English as a second language (ESL) group, will push through with their familiarization tours in Cebu, Bohol, and Iloilo, Bengzon added.

Furthermore, Teo said that she had also coordinated with UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai to renew her call to encourage foreign counterparts to issue “fair” travel advisories and have these eventually lifted.