Surigao City --- Building on the momentum of recent growth in visitors numbers to the Province of Surigao del Norte [more than doubled (134.5%) its tourist arrivals compared last year, from 43,000 to 103,000 according to DOT Caraga Report], the provincial government through the initiative of Governor Sol Matugas hosted the inaugural Tourism Summit last February 24, 2014 at the Gateway Hotel in Surigao City. The summit, which revolved on the theme, Reshaping the tourism industry towards Baong Surigao, gathered around 200 travel industry leaders to hear insights from the invited tourism experts.
Governor Matugas said that this summit was just the first among the series of meetings to be organized by the Provincial Tourism Office to generate the inputs of both private and public sectors to develop a comprehensive program for tourism for the next five years.
Tourism Marketing Consultant Zeny Pallugna said that the tourism landscape of Surigao del Norte will be reshaped through the development of a new tourism hub to spread the benefit of tourism to the mainland Municipalities. She recommended Bucas Grande Island as the new tourism hub for the province, capitalizing on the development of a new jump-off point to Bucas Grande Island, which is at Municipality of Claver. By doing this, the tourism potential of its neighboring Municipalities such as Guigaquit, Bucuag and Placer will also be developed.
According to Pallugna, Bucas Grande is a stand alone destination that can attract both foreign and local tourists by just capitalizing on its core product, the jelly fish lake. In the Philippines, there are only two areas which have non-stingy jelly fish --- Coron in Palawan and Bucas Grande. A simple improvement of its tourism center and development of unique tour packages, such as habal-habal tour, birdwatching tour, jelly lake tour and cultural experience tour would be a big boost to the island's tourism industry.
She further recommended to develop scuba diving as a new tourism product for the province. Cagtinae Reef in the Municipality of Malimono is among the dive sites frequently visited by a group of Surigao divers. The reef is about 30-minutes from Surigao City by private car.
Another untapped tourism products are the ESL or English as a Second Language and geotourism. Pallugna mentioned that ESL is also a good tourism product to be developed by the tourism office of Surigao City. The city has a number of universities and colleges which can be tapped for this program. The municipalities of Dapa and Del Carmen can also look into this ESL market to boost its tourist arrivals.
The Municipality of Del Carmen is currently offering geotourism and other Municipalities can also do this. Geotourism is a huge market, with around 55.1 million geotourists around the globe who are mostly concentrated in New York, well-off, educated and interested on local culture, local products and community interaction.
Meanwhile, Tourism Directors Letty Tan and Maria Patria Aurora Roa presented Caraga Region's tourism statistics and shared the tourism success stories of Cebu and Bohol, respectively.
The success of the Tourism Summit was through the effort of the Provincial Tourism Office of Surigao del Norte, headed by Art Cruje.