MOUNTAIN bikers in this Feb. 2020 photo, pedal to Mt. Loay peak in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. — STA. CRUZ TOURISM FB PAGE

DAVAO Region’s tourism sector saw a 94% drop in revenues last year to P3.4 billion from P64.2 billion in 2019, according to data from the Department of Tourism (DoT). “That is how substantial the drop is in our tourism receipts,” Tourism Davao Regional Director Tanya-Rabat Tan said in Filipino during the One Davao virtual press briefing last week. “And many lost their jobs,” she added.  Ms. Tan said most of the affected workers will be extended assistance through the joint cash aid program of the DoT and the Department of Labor and Employment. She said 41 tourism-related establishments, mostly for accommodations, remain temporarily closed even as coronavirus-related restrictions have been eased. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, in the same briefing, assured support to recovery initiatives of the region’s tourism industry. She also noted that the DoT is continuously lobbying to include tourism workers in the priority list for vaccination. “I believe na pag mabakunahan na lahat, tuloy-tuloy na ang trabaho (once we are vaccinated, work will be steady),” she said.

One of the new programs being developed by the DoT regional office is bike tours within Davao City and outdoor tourism circuits within the region. Ms. Tan said they are looking at a “Japanese Heritage Bike Tour” in Davao City that will include old houses and other sites featuring the long history of ties between the city and the Japanese community. “So that one we will be working closely with the city government of Davao,” she said. The bike tour will also be expanded to include options outside the city for “adventure seekers.” “It is the best way to see a place, biking,” Ms. Puyat said. Agri-tourism, which was already being developed prior to the coronavirus pandemic, is another sector that the DoT aims to promote. — Maya M. Padillo