Photo from Big 7 Travel

The province of Palawan had 407,389 domestic and foreign tourist arrivals at the end of the third quarter of the year, according to the tourism department’s web-based information system TourLISTA.

Based on the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) TourLISTA, which stands for Tourism Live-Inventory and Statistics of Tourist Arrivals, Palawan had a 541 percent growth rate since the province fully reopened to tourists in February 2022.

Domestic tourists accounted for the greatest number of arrivals (339,274) this year, while international tourist arrivals totaled 68,115.

According to the province, this is significantly higher than the 63,500 arrivals recorded in 2021 due to COVID-19, which is understandable given the restrictions in place at the time.

Maribel Buñi, chief of the Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Office (PTPDO), said that while the figure is still far from the 2 million tourist arrivals recorded in 2019, the increase recently recorded by TourLISTA is a “good indication” that the tourism sector in Palawan is bouncing back.

El Nido had the most tourist arrivals with 128,578 according to TourLISTA, followed by Coron with 70,618. Third to receive the highest number of travelers on the list was Brooke’s Point with 12,725.

Buñi said that to further get the tourism industry back to its feet, they continuously participate in travel promotions activities, such as the Philippine Travel Mart in September, hosted by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) and DOT in Manila.

They presented emerging and existing tourist destinations in cooperation with some local government units (LGUs) in Palawan for possible clients.

“Ang intervention talaga is assessment and planning, how do we help them? Hindi naman pwedeng ipromote na lang ulit na walang produkto. First, dapat may produkto muna na pwedeng mabili ang mga turista bago natin maipromote,” she said.

Buñi said they continue to help in the tourism recovery plans of LGUs, particularly to help tourism enterprises, stakeholders, and workers, who were affected by Typhoon Odette. Over 30,000 workers who were directly employed lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“Since last year ay may mga ahensya na ng pamahalaan na nais tumulong through availability ng credit facilities and loans sa ating mga investors na gustong bumangon ulit. Ang ating mga lokal na pamahalaan ay nagkaroon din ng imbentaryo o assessment sa ilang case ng LGU na ina-assist natin on the tourism development plan at nagkaroon din tayo ng assessment during pandemic, prior and after bagyong Odette,” she added.

Since the implementation of the bubble travel concept in July 2020, workers in the tourism sector have begun to reclaim their jobs. They will know their exact figure once their survey is completed, she said.

Based on travel restrictions and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines against COVID-19, Palawan remains at Alert Level 2. Although some towns, such as El Nido and Coron, have relaxed the requirement for travelers to present their S-Pass, others may still demand it.

Buñi reminded that no accommodation facilities catering to tourist can operate without being accredited by the DOT and obtaining license from LGUs.