The 2023 Sandugo Tourism and Travel Expo, now in its second year, opened at the Island City Mall (ICM) Activity Grounds on July 27.

This three-day event, from July 27 to 29, was run by the Provincial Government of Bohol (PGBh), through the Bohol Provincial Tourism Office (BPTO), in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT), Bohol Integrated Development Foundation, Inc., The Bohol Island UNESCO Global Geopark Technical Working Group, and local Tourism Industry partners from hospitality and travel establishments.

22 exhibitors are participating at the event, from travel agencies, hotels, LGUs, souvenir shops, and outdoor and recreational activity companies to promote deals, offerings, or tour packages for visitors at the Expo. The Sandugo Tourism and Travel Expo aimed for the Province’s local tourism industry to bounce back after economic loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Typhoon Odette.

BPTO OIC Joanne Pinat said this is part of PGBh’s efforts to promote revenge travel, a phenomenon, according to the Philippine Information Agency, that describes tourists making up for lost time from the COVID-19 pandemic by traveling to other places after restrictions were lifted. This initiative is to get local tourism back on its feet, as Bohol sights to reach the 1 million mark on tourists visiting the island by the end of the year.

The event officially opened with a ribbon-cutting, led by the Provincial Government’s Chief-of-Staff for Internal Affairs Atty. Filipina Piollo, who represented Governor Aris Aumentado, Dioniso Joseph Balite, representing Vice Governor Dionisio Balite, Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s (SP) Committee on Tourism Chair 3rd District Board Member Tita Baja, Committee on Culture and the Arts Chair Jiselle Rae Aumentado Villamor, Provincial Tourism Council Chair Atty, Lucas Nunag, ICM Manager Mario Cirujales, and Miss Bohol 2023 Kyra Rei Hopkins.

With Celebrating Bohol and Beyond as this year’s theme, the expo also wants to highlight Bohol as an eco-cultural destination, rich in natural and cultural heritage, by highlighting the island province’s achievement as a UNESCO-designated Global Geopark, with a tour circuit to be officially launched by BPTO and the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM) as part of the Philippines’ UNESCO trail on November.

Nunag, during his message at the launch, said this is a challenge for Boholanos to maintain the UNESCO designation for years to come by promoting ecologically-friendly tourism practices that complement Bohol’s aspirations to be a Regenerative Island. The Tourism Council Chair added that tourism is back in full swing, and the next step for the province is to conserve its natural resources for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.

Piollo, representing Aumentado on the Expo’s first day, gave an inspirational message, celebrating the local tourism industry’s resiliency after Typhoon Odette and the COVID-19 Pandemic, and an opportunity to collaborate with tourism stakeholders to strengthen Bohol’s local economy and promote regenerative tourism practices as part of PGBh’s Strategic Change Agenda on Sustainable Tourism.

“Through this expo, we aim to strengthen our partnerships with industry stakeholders, local entrepreneurs, and government agencies, working together to foster a thriving and responsible tourism sector,” Piollo said.

On its last day, BPTO handed out awards to the participating exhibitors at the expo, presented by Pinat, the Bohol Association of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants (BAHRR) president Rommel Gonzales, and SP Committee on Education Chair 1st District Board Member Lucille Lagunay. The Best Booth for LGU Category was awarded to the Municipality of Anda, the Corporate Category went to Best Western Plus The Ivywall Resort-Panglao, and the Travel Agency category went to Dagohoy World Travels. The Most Visited Booth Award went to Rio Verde Floating Restaurant and the Top-selling booth for this year was awarded to LV Travel and Tours.

Gonzales thanked the event organizers during the closing program for the opportunity for local tourism industry partners to showcase what they can offer through the expo. Gonzales encouraged more tourism-related businesses to participate next year.

Pinat, during the closing program, said that Boholanos can expect a grander expo next year and announced the three-day event generated more income from sales and bookings compared to last year’s, from 2 million pesos in 2022 to close to 10 million pesos this year as of July 29. Judilyn Quiachon, Office of Tourism Regulation Director and Coordination and Resource General, congratulated Bohol for being the first UNESCO-Designated Global Geopark in the Philippines and underscored the importance of collaborations between the Government and Private Sector to create more opportunities to empower local Micro-and small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) through tourism.

Throughout the expo, organizers also hosted trivia games, with vouchers and coupons from exhibitors as prizes for those who can answer the questions correctly.

The Tourism and Travel Expo was part of the Tabo Activity Stream of this year’s Sandugo sa Bohol celebration, aimed to create economic opportunities for Boholanos.

By: Gavin Michael Cubillo/ The Provincial Information and Media Office