NOT even a 7.2-magnitude earthquake can stand in the way of Cebu hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) 5th World Ecotourism Conference scheduled next month.
“We are even more determined to push through (with it),” said tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr in the wake of the earthquake that struck Cebu and Bohol last Tuesday (TTG Asia e-Daily, October 16, 2013).
The three-day conference will be held at the 420-room Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu from November 13 to 15, with more than half of the expected 300 to 400 delegates to come from overseas. The event is a big booster for Cebu and Bohol’s MICE sector, which is being hounded by cancellations and deferments since the earthquake.
Rowena Montecillo, regional director for Cebu and Bohol from the Department of Tourism (DoT), said the conference would help showcase Cebu and Bohol’s marine biodiversity under the theme of Coastal Ecotourism: Oceans of Uncertainties, Waves of Opportunities.
Part of the conference is a full-day technical tour of Bohol, which is considered a model ecotourism destination in the Philippines. Other aspects of the conference include plenary sessions, B2B meetings, research symposia and post-tours to other destinations including Davao.
The updated Philippine National Ecotourism Strategy will also be soft-launched there.
The conference will conclude with the Cebu Declaration on Ecotourism, to be submitted to UNWTO and the Regional Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, which will have its conference in the Philippines next year.
While hotels and other business establishments in Cebu and Bohol have resumed operations, severely affected areas remain off-limits. DoT’s Crisis Management Committee will hold consultations with travel industry heads to come up with a contingency plan to restore market confidence and offer alternative tour programmes within the area.
DoT’s Jimenez urged the speedy reconstruction of damaged facilities in attractions and transportation infrastructure. “On the business side, I call on our industry leaders and suppliers to swiftly embark on aggressive plans to sustain the destinations’ marketability and to achieve normalcy.”