IT isn't surprising that Cebu has jumped the gun on other tourist destinations in the race towards reopening of local tourism, following the virtual end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ongoing this month in Cebu is the "I Love Cebu Summer Sale" sponsored by the Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. (HRRACI).
My friend Benjamin L. Layug, a top travel and tourism writer and blogger, said the HRRACI "aims to revive the tourism industry and put Cebu back on the map for people itching to reacquaint themselves with the world through travel." He noted that the group also wants to help its members in the plight to revive tourism and to drive guests to their properties.
We know how hard it has been for hotels and restaurants across the country to eke out a living during the two-year pandemic. They made do with a thin occupancy, some hotels had to close temporarily or permanently, while others scrapped the bottom through the measly business the Department of Tourism and local governments could bring: accommodations for returning Filipinos from abroad, many of them OFWs.
The hotels and restaurants, resorts and similar establishments had to lay off workers, or had to operate below capacity with a skeleton force.
The pandemic took its toll the hardest in top tourist destinations for local and foreign guests — Cebu, Bohol, Baguio, Palawan, and Boracay.
Every place has a different and unique story to tell, but each story is full of dashed dreams, faint hope and resolve to recover as soon as the reopening of the economy and the tourism industry is under way.
Such is the sentiment in Bohol, where the Bluewater Panglao holds sway among top beach resorts, enticing tourists to visit and revisit the place because of its hospitable and cheerful hotel personnel, delicious seafood and local delicacies cooked to perfection (they have the best "halayang ube and ube cakes" in the country, I assure you), a choice of several sand and water activities such as watching dolphins and being entertained by young and agile local dancers at lunch, and having dinner at the beach under the moonlight, luau style.
In Cebu this month, local and foreign tourists are being treated to refurbished rooms, discounted rates, full hotel services and the ubiquitous Su-To-Kil (sugba, tola, kilaw) which are the best preparations of fish dishes in the Philippines. You will find this in most cities in the Visayas, whether Tacloban, Cebu, Iloilo, Ormoc or Bacolod.
Layug continues to report: The "I Love Cebu Summer Sale" is a month-long, private-sector led, tourism marketing initiative which was launched online through its official website, http://www.traveloco.ph/ilovecebu .
The summer sale has almost 50 participating hotels and resorts and 17 travel agencies in Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City and the towns of Bantayan, Cordova, Moalboal, Oslob, and Sta. Fe.
Credit should go to PR man par excellence Pete Dacuycuy for taking us to Bluewater Maribago while the event "I Love Cebu Summer Sale" is still ongoing as this trip has become a welcome respite from political coverage in the heat of the campaign.
Maribago is a busy bayside area and is the name of a public beach surrounded by dive centers and tour agencies offering island-hopping trips. The place also has fashionable private beaches, upscale restaurants offering Western, Japanese, Korean and Filipino dishes. The shops on Manuel L. Quezon national highway specialize in souvenirs and beach accessories.
There will be a lot to write about our Bluewater Maribago experience, but that should merit another column in Opinyon.