Eastern Visayas' regional tourism office has enjoined local governments to prepare their destinations for the influx of tourists this summer by ensuring cleanliness and quality of service.
The office's director, Karina Rosa Tiopes, said the media exposure the Philippines has gained from its hosting of the Miss Universe pageant is expected to draw more tourists, not only in areas toured by the candidates, but other parts of the country as well.
“There is an ongoing assessment to check if destinations and nearby tourism-related establishments are prepared in terms of cleanliness, availability of rest rooms, quality of service and other things,” Tiopes said.
After the evaluation, the team from the tourism office will give its feedback to the local governments and other stakeholders to make improvements ahead of the peak months.
“Our central office is even anticipating more tourists because of the mileage that we got from the hosting of Miss Universe and good words of contestants and their families,” Tiopes said.
“They were well taken care of. It’s the kind of caring that makes the Philippines a worthwhile destination to visit. It will really benefit the region because of the mere fact that they’re looking at the Philippines.”
Miss Universe candidates visited at least seven top tourist destinations in the country as part of the activities for the international beauty pageant. These sites are in Davao, Batangas, Cebu, Baguio, Ilocos Sur, Aklan, and the National Capital Region.
“It’s not just about preparing for potential visitors to come in, but we really know people will be coming in because it’s already summer in two months’ time,” Tiopes explained.
Among the region’s popular destinations are Kalanggaman Island, the San Juanico Bridge, and the Leyte Landing Memorial in Leyte; Sambawan Island in Biliran; dive sites in Southern Leyte; Calicoan Island in Eastern Samar; the Sohoton Cave and Natural Park in Samar; and the Biri rock formations in Northern Samar.
Eastern Visayas remains relatively under the radar compared to other tourist destinations in the Philippines, but this has been slowly changing in the past years as demand for raw nature tourism grows, according to Tiopes.
An increasing number of people have been visiting the region recently in pursuit of rugged coasts and landscapes, secret caves and waterfalls, and fascinating histories.
Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
Kalanggaman Island remains the most visited destination in Eastern Visayas last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office reported.
The picturesque Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte attracted 95,677 tourists in 2016, the highest among all the tourist sites in the region.
DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa S. Tiopes said the Island gained its prominence through social media.
”Whenever someone searches Eastern Visayas or Leyte online, the Kalanggaman Island appeared to be the number one attraction,” Tiopes said
“People have been posting images in social media and through those visuals, the tourists could see its beauty. It is like a paradise calling them to come. The impact of social media is really bringing a strong persuasion to the people,” she added.
In 2013, the island started to gain international exposure after the MV Europa Cruise line stopped over on the island and brought almost 400 passengers, who stayed for couple of hours.
This was followed by MS Breman, MS Europa II, which brought close to 2,000 tourists to the island in the last two years.
Kalanggaman Island is the jewel of the government’s tourism program. The island beach destination sprawled on a sandbar in the middle of the sea is located in Palompon town.
The island is famous for its crystal-clear seawater, white powdery sand and long sand bars stretching on both sides of the island.
There are a lot of activities that can be done best in Kalanggaman such as swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, aqua-biking, scuba diving, and camping.
The island has a length of 753 meters and is still uninhabited. There is no privately-owned resort but overnight camping is allowed. The local tourism office of Palompon limits the number of tourists to 500 per day to preserve its natural beauty.(PNA)John Ray B. Sudario/CVL/Sarwell Q. Meniano with Felgin C. Silagan