Mayor Lucilo Bayron expects the tourism sector to rebound significantly this year following the easing of pandemic-related limitations, although recovery plans must be thoroughly reviewed with city development planners.
He said the City Tourism Office (CTO) has briefed him on visitor arrivals, implying that the tourism economy is on the mend. One of his top priorities, now that anniversary and festival celebrations are done, will be meeting with city development planners to discuss shifting from COVID-19 pandemic response to recovery.
“Nag-report yong tourism officer natin na meron ng mga turista na dumarating. May mga foreigner na nga, pero hindi pa talaga pareho ng dati, konti lang. Pero yon yong nagsisimula, yon ang pagsimula na,” he said on Friday, March 4, during the commissioning of the sewage treatment plant at the baywalk.
“Tinawagan ko na si [Engr.] Jovenee [Sagun,] sabi ko we have to meet, we have to discuss, i-fine tune natin yong recovery plan natin kasi pagkatapos ng selebrasyon na ito, papasok na tayo sa pandemic recovery. Palagay ko mabilis naman tayong makaka-recover,” he added.
Demetrio Alvior, the chief of the City Tourism Office (CTO), claimed that the number of tourism arrivals had surged since December 8, 2021, when the industry reopened to allow domestic travelers after a two-year hiatus.
Even if the tourism sector came to a halt once more when Typhoon Odette slammed into the city on December 17, 2021, its recovery was already apparent, he said Sunday in a phone interview with Palawan News.
He said group bookings are coming back, with 200 arriving this March from pharmaceutical companies.
“Parami ng parami every month. Marami na rin ang dumarating at least kahit papaano. Parang alam ko noong February nasa 500 plus, or 553 yata. Kasi ang January, parang 160 plus lang, or 162. Basta nasa 223% increase siya, yong arrival,” Alvior said.
“Ngayong March may mga grupo na nagtatanong na sa ating mga tour agency. Sa March may grupo din na pharma, 200 plus din yon.
PPUR and other city destinations
The world-class underground river in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, the islands in Honda Bay, and the beaches on the west coast, according to Alvior, are just a few of the tourist spots that are now open for business.
Tagkuriring Falls near the Bagong Bayan/Simpocan districts, which is now accessible via a newly-paved road, is another rising location that travelers in the city can explore.
“Yong PPUR, after one week since Odette, nag-open na. May mga destinations lang tayo na particularly affected dyan, yong Ugong Rock natin, Hundred Caves, Buenavista view deck, hindi pa sila makaka-operate, pero ang kagandahan nyan, yong sa west coast natin, yong beaches ay pumi-pick up,” he said.
“Yong Tagkuriring Falls mas dinadayo ngayon compared noon sa Olangoan Falls. Pagkagaling ng Tagkawan, malapit na sila dyan. Okay puntahan dahil maganda ang accessibility niya kasi napa-semento ni Cong. Gil [Acosta] yong kalahati,” he added, claiming visitors need only to walk 700 meters from the main road to reach the falls.
According to Alvior, they’ve also requested assistance from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in promoting Puerto Princesa because of the “tough competition” since tourism hubs across the country are reopening at the same time.
However, he stated that marketing and promotions will be done gradually in order to avoid instilling unrealistic expectations in tourists, as there is still a need for rehabilitation owing to Odette’s impacts.
“Ayaw naman natin na mag-expect sila, pero pagdating nila dito ay hindi naman ganoon ang sitwasyon. Ang mga pictures namin ay before Odette pa kaya ayaw naman natin na mag-promise at baka ma-over,” he said.
Of the three accommodation categories — hotels, resorts, and Mabuhay (pension houses and tourist inns) — only hotels and some inns have reopened due to the imposed DOT accreditation, and because some resorts, such as Dos Palmas, were damaged by the typhoon and have asked extended respite to allow for necessary repairs.
“Fortunately, naman for the three straight years, nakuha natin yong highest DOT-accredited establishments na nagpa-exams sa buong MIMAROPA. This means compliant tayo sa mandate ng DOT na dapat naaayon ka sa international standard,” he said.
On March 1, all inbound travelers, regardless of their category (returning, APOR, non-residents, or vaccination status), were allowed to enter Puerto Princesa.
The city government dropped the requirement for testing. However, individuals who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated and who are traveling from provinces with an Alert Level 2 status (connecting flight to Manila) must nevertheless perform the rapid antigen test one day prior to their departure date.
Upon arrival at the PPC international airport, passengers will receive an on-site health assessment and certification.