10 years after Yolanda’s devastation

TACLOBAN CITY – The tourism sector in Eastern Visayas which was greatly affected by Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ a decade ago is now slowly recovering, according to the region’s tourism department.

Karina Rosa Tiopes, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT), said that due to Yolanda, people became curious about Eastern Visayas and what destinations they could visit.

The super typhoon, she added, was also instrumental in knowing how resilient the region’s tourism industry was despite the massive destruction it caused to the tourism establishments and facilities.

Based on the record of the DOT-8, of the 101 tourist accommodation facilities in 2013 that were destroyed due to Yolanda, only 43 had opened after the devastation of the super typhoon to cater to the needs of people working in non-government organizations that came to the region to help in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

But 10 years after Yolanda, from 101 tourist accommodations, the number surged to 693 accommodation facilities operating in towns and cities affected by the super typhoon.
The number of travel and tour operators also increased- from 36 in previous years, the region also now has 22 regional tour guides, and 104 community tour guides.

Despite the devastation of Yolanda in the last quarter of 2013, the region managed to attract a positive gain of visitors’ arrival in 2014 with 964,000 or 31.7 percent higher than their record in 2013.

The number of tourist arrivals continued to increase every year, according to the regional tourism chief.

From 1.73 million tourist arrivals in 2019, it went down to 313,930 arrivals in 2020 mainly due to the pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

But the number increased in 2021 with tourist arrivals recorded at 1.07 million in 2022.
The DOT expects higher tourist arrivals this year.

Tiopes, however, said that there is still much to be done for the total recovery of the region’s tourism sector and surpass its gains, and meet the goal of making Eastern Visayas one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

“I’m not afraid to say that we are still weak in terms of marketing because marketing is not only a task of a certain tourism enterprise, it’s not only the task of DOT, it’s not only a task of the local government unit,” she said.

“We should have a concerted effort. We should have one brand that speaks about us and identifies us, makes us unique from other destinations and we have to communicate this properly to our target market,” Tiopes emphasizes.

She added that aside from marketing, local government units in the region must also learn how to focus their marketing strategy to capture their target audience or tourists.
Local government units must also develop their tourism master plans to guide them in their development directions.