Thursday, June 13, 2024

Philippine Targets More Inbound, Local Tourists To Soccsksargen


Philippine Targets More Inbound, Local Tourists To Soccsksargen


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The Department of Tourism (DOT) is staging its ninth Philippine Experience Program (PEP) in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos), reintroducing the region as a destination ready for both international and local tourists.

The PEP is a curated DOT-led tourism program to let tourism stakeholders, including foreign diplomats and travel and tour agencies to experience firsthand what activities and destinations the region has to offer.

“The target markets are both international and local tourists because even as a Filipino living in Cebu, it’s my first time here in Lake Sebu. That tells you that there is still so much more that our fellow Filipinos can discover should they venture to these parts of the Philippines,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in an interview at the Lake Sebu leg of PEP: Soccsksargen on Thursday.

“This Philippine Experience is also designed to diversify our tourism offerings in the international global tourism market,” she added.

Citing the new travel trends post-pandemic, Frasco sees Soccsksargen as a good option for tourists who are looking for “purposeful, experiential and immersive” travel.

“[S]occsksargen offers a very diversified tourism portfolio — maganda ang mga beaches nila sa Sarangani (their beaches in Sarangani are beautiful), they have vast mountain ranges, several stunning waterfalls, and still thriving and vibrant indigenous peoples that hold the key to Filipino identity tradition and culture,” she said.

Frasco said the DOT was eyeing to further develop gastronomy tourism in the region, specifically its Halal food for Muslim tourists.

“The flavors of Soccsksargen are also quite delicious especially that it is a mix of influences, predominantly Malay. These profiles in terms of gastronomy are something that we find to be very attractive, especially to our tourists that are in search of Muslim-friendly and Halal tourism destinations,” she said.

“I’m optimistic that tourism here on Soccsksargen will continue to thrive because the people of Soccsksargen are ready to receive tourists from all the world and from all over the Philippines.

Asked about safety and security for tourists, Frasco said: “Yes, I feel very safe while I’m here”.

She said local government units in the region were active in ensuring peace and security in the area.

One of the PEP delegates Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) Trustee Fe Abling-Yu said Lake Sebu in South Cotabato alone could already be packaged as a “standalone” destination.

The CCT Malungon Retreat Center in Malungon, Sarangani, she said, could also be a good inclusion in tour packages for tourists wanting to fully immerse in the rich culture of the Blaan and Tagakaolo.

Lake Sebu and CCT Malungon Retreat Center are two of the 10 sites the DOT is highlighting in this four-day PEP, which runs from June 4 to 7.

The other destinations and activities are the Gensan Tuna Fish Port experience and Pacman Tour in General Santos City; the white sand beach of Glan in Sarangani; the Sitio Maupot Family Resort in Magpet, Cotabato; and the Bansada Agri-Eco Adventure Park that gives guests the best view of the Daguma Mountain Range from Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat.

In an interview at Bansada, Bagumbayan Mayor Jonalette De Pedro personally encouraged tourists to visit Sultan Kudarat, specifically her municipality’s flagship destination.

“We’re safe here, even in Sultan Kudarat we promote tourism that’s why here we have this big challenge as to the image na nasa labas (outside). So, we want to prove to people outside that Sultan Kudarat is really safe when it comes to tourism,” she said.

Prior to the opening of Bansada in 2020, Bagumbayan’s arrivals averaged 13,000 visitors a year, the majority were locals from other Sultan Kudarat towns.

With this new attraction, the municipality already recorded at least 80,000 tourists in 2023, with a mix of foreign tourists and travelers from other regions, including Metro Manila. (PNA)