It has all what tourists could dream of: pristine serene beaches, historical and unique ecotourism sites, fine resorts and friendly people. Bohol is ready to receive international travellers and could prove to be an alternative to nearby crowded Cebu.
Bohol in the Central Visayas could be to Cebu what Trang or Phang Nga would be for Phuket in Thailand. A beautiful quaint island which is growing its tourism industry in the shadow of its larger and more famous neighbour. Bohol has been known locally for long but it remains largely; untouched and was so far spared of massive tourism development. Probably due to poor access to the island – a major handicap for many destinations in the Philippines.
A crucial problem remains Tagbilaran airport, the main air gateway to Bohol. The tiny terminal, which has the charm of a half-abandoned supermarket, is insufficient to welcome international flights as it has neither the space or the safety and immigration facilities to accommodate international air links. Alternatively, visitors can come out of Cebu linked by some 20 ferry rides every day.
This will however change rapidly as Bohol is back on tourism investors’ radar. The earthquake two years ago has been seen indeed as a blessing in disguise. “It not only did attract lots of sympathy around the country but also forced politicians to act rapidly to put the island back on track”, says Stella Alberto-Ramos, Resort Manager of Hennan Resort in Bohol.
Reconstructing the island after the natural catastrophe is now translating into brand new infrastructures. A new road has for example been built to Tarsier’s Corella Sanctuary, one of the most visited attractions in the province. The construction of a new airport has also been speed off.
Last year, the Philippines Government gave the green light to Japanese investors for the construction of a greenfield airport, an investment of US$146 million. Located in Panglao district, near to most of Bohol resorts, the future facility will be the only approved greenfield airport of the Aquino outgoing government. Built with the financial support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the future 8,000 m2 terminal will be able to accommodate a trafic of 1.7 million passengers per year, doubling current capacities. The eco-friendly airport will stretch over 216 hectares is due for completion by the end of next year.
The island particularly capitalizes on two famed tourism assets: the Tarsier, a small lemur endemic to the island, which is now strictly protected. Visitors can visit its sanctuary in Corella, where 100 animals are living. They are also historical churches such as the one in Baclayon, Bohol oldest catholic structure, founded in 1597 and now being reconstructed following the earthquake of 2013. Another attraction, Loboc River, receives tourists for cruises on its green-emerald waters. They generally enjoy lunch while local Bohol people perform songs and dances…
And above all, Bohol’s iconic Chocolate Hills. The cone shaped landscape of 1,776 hills has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back to 2006 with authorities confident to get the UN agency’s endorsement some days. as been declared the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument on June 18, 1988 in recognition of its scientific value and geomorphic uniqueness. The name has been given as a reference to the dark brown colour of hills due to the lack of precipitation during the dry season.
Meanwhile, Bohol is experiencing a boom in resorts along Panglao Beach, which is rapidly turning into a popular seaside destination. Until recently, along Alona beach, they were mostly small hotels and backpackers inns. First five star property to open its doors last year, the Henann Resort Alona Beach in Panglao, Bohol is the first venture of Henann outside Boracay, where it comes from. Spreading over 6.5 hectares of land, the property has 400 rooms, 12 luxury villas and a convention centre able to accommodate up to 1,000 delegates. Henann joined existing luxury properties such as Eskaya Beach Resort and its 24 deluxe villas or the Bellevue Hotel and the South Palms Resort, another luxury property along Panglao Beach. A few more resorts are due to open their doors until 2018.
Capitalising on its newly built tourism infrastructure, Bohol is now embarked into a brand revamping exercise. With the help of Philippines Department of Tourism and USAid, Bohol created “Behold… Bohol” and helped establishing new products. Among them is a Tagbilaran Heritage Walk around Bohol capital city and what has been left from historical structure and 12 eco-tourism packages. Bohol is likely to boom, probably once the new airport is opened and first non stop flights from Singapore or Korea land…