Interest in Mindanao tourism continues to grow – Manila Bulletin


John Tria

Davao City — I just came from the opening of the first Mindanao Travel Expo at a big convention center in the city. Emceed by no less than Tourism Secretary Cristina García Frasco, the event brought together tourism stakeholders including the DOT official, LGU tourism officials and businesses in a grand exposition showcasing attractions and facilities with diverse offerings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, I remember frequently traveling to the cities of Mindanao. Back then, this meant a direct flight from Manila to only four destinations: Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato City, Davao and Zamboanga, the latter two being the only airports that could accept arrivals after sunset. They were served by jet aircraft as I don’t recall a regular turboprop service from Manila to a Mindanao destination which, if I may add, was only served by one airline. To get to other cities in Mindanao, one had to connect through Cebu, as these airports could often accommodate smaller jets, and only between sunrise and sunset.

At that time, few people thought of Mindanao as a tourist destination. Most of the travelers did so for business or personal reasons. Any sightseeing was thus haphazard, as except for Mindanao’s larger cities with their own attractions, most required long hours of travel over bumpy roads. Yet even at this time, people see the potential of various lakes, waterfalls, islands, beaches and mountain retreats that remain unused.

People started paying more attention to Mindanao about 20 years ago when Davao and Cagayan de Oro started attracting convention visitors. Camiguin began to attract visitors from Mindanao and Cebu; Siargao is becoming world famous for its beaches and surfing; and Samal Island in Davao. Cable television channels and Internet sites have begun to feature these locations.

The advent of low airfares in the late 2000s increased the desire to explore Mindanao’s cities, with the upgrading of more airports such as Dipolog, Pagadian, General Santos, Ozamiz, Butuan, acceptance of jet flights directly from Manila, direct international flights to Davao from Singapore and Palau after the opening of the new international airport terminal in 2004.

As we entered the 2010s, YouTube and social media posts enticed us to visit various other unseen places, with tourist demand prompting local authorities to invest in roads and facilities. More convention goers flocked to Davao, Surigao’s Enchanted River gained popularity, along with Caguet Bay and Britannia Islands, Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, the pink sands of Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga.

As the years progressed, hotels in Mindanao cities began to build larger convention facilities, and roads were widened especially in the last five years. In addition, the improved law and order situation in the past few years has helped encourage more investment in tourism facilities such as hotels and restaurants.
In the case of Mindanao, this has led to a deeper interest in the depth of its diverse and profound culture and pristine natural attractions, including recent developments that include impressive “sea of ​​clouds” destinations in the Davao region, with small resorts, restaurants and offering cafe mountain getaways overlooking small valleys where clouds and mist gather on cool mornings.

Looking ahead, I foresee more interest in Mindanao’s tourism sector as the world begins to learn more about its unique cuisine, heritage that predates Spanish colonization, magnificent mountains, fresh fruits, the colors of indigenously inspired clothing and the smiles, that people show to those they visit.



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