BOHOL is picking up the pieces through the Bohol Tourism Recovery Programme (BTRP), spearheaded by the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT) together with USAID, UNWTO and PATA.
BTRP outlines new marketing strategies to woo international markets and develop new products, while at the same time strengthening Bohol's positioning as an eco-cultural destination.
"The (tourism recovery) programme identified very specific projects that we'll enact," said Philippine tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez. "When you have a major earthquake, you actually end up with geological features that are highly touristic. There are parts of Bohol, for example, that have now exposed the bottom of the ocean – and USAID got very excited about that."
Some travel consultants have suggested that the ruins of churches destroyed by the earthquakes would make potential tour products in the future. Jimenez said that it would take some time, as "some of them are still shaky" but welcomed more voluntourism efforts.
Tourists have already begun returning to the province and occupancy rates are now within the 80-85 per cent range, said assistant tourism secretary, Rolando Canizal.
Renalie Locsin, reservations supervisor, Annset Holidays, confirmed that European travellers were coming back too, having brought a group of 120 Austrians to Bohol in February.
Roads and attractions reopened late last year (TTG Asia e-Daily, November 4, 2013) after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked the province in October, disrupting transport networks (TTG Asia e-Daily, October 16, 2013).
Bohol experienced nearly five per cent growth in foreign tourists by the end of 2013, but suffered an almost 60 per cent drop in domestic travel.
However, the gateway Tagbilaran airport has no night rating capability and had to turn away evening charter requests from Japan and South Korea, Canizal confirmed. "We've asked the Department of Transport and Communication to make adjustments that (will) allow (these) charter flights," he added.