By Maya M. Padillo, Correspondent
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — With travel bans from various countries hanging over Mindanao, promoting tourism in the Philippine’s southern islands is no easy task.
“It’s unfortunate that we have some advisories (against travel to Mindanao), but I suppose this came about, of course, because of reports of some isolated incidents,” Department of Tourism-Northern Mindanao (DoT-10) Regional Director Marie Elaine S. Unchuan said in an interview during the opening of the 5th Regional Travel fair in Cagayan de Oro City on August 23.
But word-of-mouth promotion, which in the Internet age comes in the form of bloggers and influencers, makes a big contribution to changing traveler perception.
“We have a lot of people to thank, especially ‘yung mga turista na nag-share ng experiences nila (the tourists who share their experiences), encouraging ‘yung iba kasi nakikita nila ‘yung magagandang tanawin ng Mindanao (others because they see the beautiful sceneries in Mindanao),” Ms. Unchuan said.
One such influencer is Kyle “Kulas” Jennermann, the Canadian behind the vlog (video log) Becoming Filipino.
“A lot of people when they hear about Mindanao, they are fearsome. But what I found is, people are very positive,” he said in an interview in Cagayan de Oro.
Mr. Jennermann, who has been touring around Mindanao in a scooter, said the connections he makes with the people he meets in his travels mean the most to him.
“It’s the connection I have here, the people, they open their lives and their homes to me. The communities here, the barangay, the people work very hard, I really appreciate that. On top of that is the diversity and experiences,” he said.
Ms. Unchuan said while foreign visitors may still be difficult to convince, local travelers are on the rise.
“I think people have been seeing the beauty of Mindanao as a whole and Northern Mindanao as a region. You can see the beauty in social media and of course the aggressive promotions of the Department of tourism,”
The 5th Regional Travel Fair last week, organized by the Tourism Promotions Board, the DoT’s marketing arm, focused on expanding domestic tourism.
Among the attractions of Northern Mindanao are white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro, halal food in Lanao del Norte, Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, Mt. Kitanglad, Dahilayan Forest Park in Bukidnon, and the Divine Mercy Shrine in Misamis Oriental.
Ms. Unchuan said they are also highlighting experiences that showcase the culture of Mindanao through the seven tribes of Bukidnon, the Subanens of Misamis Occidental, and the Maranaos of Lanao del Norte.
“This (travel fair) is very significant because all the tour operators from different regions are here and they have already seen what we have to offer and they have been doing the B2B (business-to-business) with our tour operators,” she said.