MINERVA BC NEWMAN
DUMAGUETE CITY – The Province of Negros Oriental is very optimistic of its tourism recovery prospects this year after its successful hosting of the DIVE7 Festival with underwater photo contest on July 28-31 with 40 participants both local and foreign divers and the DIVE7 Trade and Media Familiarization Tour in Negros Oriental from July 31 to August 3 to promote the dive sites and eco-farm tourism as its brands for the province’s tourism industry, both events were initiated by the Department of Tourism (DOT7)-Central Visayas.
DOT-DIVE7 Project Director Glenice Do bared that the events included various activities like underwater photo competitions, mermaid-swimming activity, full face mask activity, coastal clean-up and a ‘Visit Negros Oriental’ media familiarization tour promoting the dive sites and eco-farm tourism as brands for sustainable tourism.
According to Do, DIVE7 Festival was launched in 2021 that generated high interest from various dive communities in Central Visayas that were affected by restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. “It has since attracted both beginners and experienced divers from all over the country,” she added.
This year’s DIVE7 Festival kicked off in Negros Oriental along the Zamboanguita coastline and closed in Dauin town. These towns are famous diving spots because of its wide expanse of live corals and their proximity to Apo Island, a prime international diving destination.
DOT7 Chief Tourism Operations Officer Judy Gabato said, the festival is part of the agency’s programs to promote and develop premier tourist destinations in the region and also based on the directive of the new Tourism Sec. Christina Frasco to collaborate with local government units (LGUs) in carrying out tourism-related activities.
Local officials and tourism stakeholders’ reactions
Zamboanguita Mayor Jonah Pat Aviles and Dauin Vice mayor Rodrigo Alejano welcomed the DOT7 programs because these provided the LGUs to showcase their readiness to accommodate and welcome back the tourists to their towns.
“We are opening our tourism sites following the pandemic. Zamboanguita has a lot of dive sites for foreign and local tourists. Second, our tourist attractions are not just limited to diving. We also have Jumao-as hot spring and Waterfalls and Najandig Park as other tourism spots,” Aviles bared.
Aviles said they are expecting increase in tourism activities in Dauin and in the first district due to the plan to construct a new international airport in Bacong town.
According to Erlyn Villaflores-Baldoza, Zamboanguita Diving and Leisure Resorts Association (ZDLRA) President and Allura Resort Dive and Spa Operations Manager that the DOT7-DIVE7 Festival and Visit NegOr media tour was a good way to encourage divers and diving enthusiast to recognize Zamboanguita as a diving and tourist destination not just in Negros Oriental but also in the Philippines and the international arena.
Baldoza said that tourism in the town has been slowly going back to normal as resorts are now operating at 50 to 70 percent capacity. Most resorts offer a 20 percent discounts to direct clients to help the industry rise up from the ill-effects of the pandemic.
Erwin Macias, Tourism Consultant to the province wants scuba diving as the avenue to promote the province, its eco-farm tourism and its environment protection initiatives. He called on the DOT7 not to forget to promote Negros Oriental as part of Central Visayas.
“We have more participants in this year’s DIVE7 Festival and I thanked the participants for coming and making the events a success. Hopefully, you will come back next year for another round of DIVE7 and we will have more guests and participants. We make it a point to make sure that you have a pleasant stay and experience here in Negros Oriental,” Macias said.
Macias hoped that DOT7 and the Province of Negros Oriental can collaborate more to promote programs and diving sites in the province in the future and the challenge is to make the next DIVE7 a much more enjoyable and fun-filled event.
Dauin Councilor and Chairperson on the Committee on Tourism Alvin Truita also believed that through this event, local and foreign tourists will have a memorable experience in the province.