The Philippines Inquirer newspaper reported that Eastern Visayas fully recovered from the devastating Yolanda typhoon in 2013. Yolanda was the deadliest Philippines’ typhoon on record, killing at least 6,300 people in the country, including 5,800 in the Eastern Visayas.
Yolanda was also the strongest storm recorded at landfall. Images of the destroyed city of Tacloban -where 90% of the structures disappeared or were heavily damaged, damages in Leyte and Samar islands went all over the world. Yolanda put the region on its knees economically and socially: The Philippines faced a humanitarian crisis with 1.9 million homeless and more than 6,000,000 displaced. The cost of the damages inflicted by the giant typhoon has been put at over US$2 billion including US$1.2 billion for human and social help and to almost US$500 million for goods production.
The tourism industry was of course fully impacted in Eastern Visayas. But it seems that recovery has been quicker than expected according to the newspaper. Numbers from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Eastern Visayas showed that more than a million tourists visited the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and Biliran in 2015 -last year with available data, contributing at least P9 billion (the equivalent of US$182 million) to the economy of Eastern Visayas.
However, tourism remains largely dependent of local travellers. On 42,000 foreign travellers decided to venture into the region in 2015. The million visitors of 2015 was the highest tourism figure to date. In 2013, the Eastern Visayas welcomed a total of 731,000 visitors and in 2014, this number climbed to 964,000.
There was probably a solidarity effect with local tourists deciding to support the region by visiting the archipelago. In Tacloban City, the demand has been matched by investors. Some 80 hotels are now available in the regional capital.
According to Karina Rosa Tiopes, DOT director for Eastern Visayas, demand since 2016 is now coming from foreign travellers, especially for diving sites, beaches and waterfalls. said Yolanda had a strong negative impact on the region’s tourism industry.
“I believe that what happened to us three years ago put us in the world news and whether it was bad or good, we made news,” Tiopes said to the Inquirer. She indicated that the department is now projecting a double-digit growth rates in tourism in the years to come.