Sorsogon expects tourism to rise under Alert Level 2

By Mar S. Arguelles


The tourism industry in Sorsogon is hopeful that it would recover from the economic slump after health authorities have recently downgraded the Covid-19 alert status to Level 2 resulting to easing of health restriction and opening of tourist establishments in the province.


Bobby Gigantone, Sorsogon Provincial Tourism Office (SPTO) chief, said the Donsol Whaleshark interaction reopened following a multi-sectoral meeting setting up guidelines and protocols that would be implemented to ensure the safety of both the tourists and the locals under the Alert Level 2 status.


Under Alert Level 2, indoor establishment would be allowed 50 percent capacity while 70 percent capacity would be permitted in outdoor areas.


In Donsol town, the tourism industry has suffered huge financial losses, which resulted to unemployment of hundreds of workers due to the pandemic.


Donsol Tourism Office (DTO) data said the yearly Butanding Festival has generated about P448 million in gross revenue, P75 million of which goes to the community while P3.5 million goes to the LGU coffers and the rest are spent for national promotions and tourism marketing activities.


The town whale shark interaction project is a collaborative undertaking among the local government, the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines that agreed on a joint commitment for a sustainable and balanced eco-tourism program.


The DTO data said before the pandemic struck, the industry has recorded over 13,000 tourist arrivals.


Gigantone said the permanent and temporary closure of tourist establishments such as hotels, resorts, restaurants resulted in hundreds of millions in revenue losses and hundreds of workers losing their jobs.


Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero said the re-opening of the tourism sites would help the industry and community, particularly its workers to bounce back from the slump at the same time initiate health measure that would balance and protect people and save the economy.


As this developed, the province would also open other tourist destinations including the Bulusan Natural Park.


Meanwhile, Herbie Aguas, DOT Bicol regional director, said the pandemic has vastly hurt the tourism industry in the region for the past two years, which is equivalent to revenue losses estimated at P10 billion.


Aguas said it will take two to three years for the industry to gradually recover and for the government to pour in fiscal stimulus to assist in the recovery plan.


He said the pandemic though it affected the industry also gave other stakeholders to find alternatives livelihood like engaging in Agri-Tourism events.


Bicol region currently has 16 farm sites that highlight agricultural products, research developments, farm exhibits, and farmers’ training.


Among the farm sites opened for travel tours are the Hibiscus Trekker’s Camp in Tigaon town, Inarihan Farm Resort in Naga City, LRV-Agri Science Farm in Calabanga, MikeLiz Integrated Farm also in Calabanga, Sonrisa Farm in Magarao, AO Techno Science Park @ OADP at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture in Pili, all in Camarines Sur.


In Albay, opened were the Aguas Farm in Sto. Domingo; Albay Farmer’s Bounty Village, Elmiro De Shei Integrated Farm, and Solong Eco Park and Tours, all in Camalig; and Villa Miranda Farm and Resorts in Libon.


In Sorsogon, now open to visitors are the Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm in Bulusan and Barcelona Agrihope Tourism Farm in Barcelona.


In Masbate, also opened were the Casa Eduardo Agri-farm Resort in Claveria, and Uma Koinonia in Masbate City.


In Camarines Norte, on the other hand, JSMS Organic Farm and Agribusiness in Jose Panganiban have been allowed to accept visitors.