THANKS TO ‘REVENGE TRAVEL’: Iloilo City is second most visited in W. Visayas

Iloilo City is the second most visited place in Western Visayas in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Leo Solinap)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Recently publicized data revealed that Iloilo City was Western Visayas’ second-most visited destination last year, which the city government attributed to post-pandemic travel.

The data culled from accommodation establishments as of April 28 this year, indicated that the city received a total of 752,301 visitors, consisting of 734,218 domestic travelers and 18,083 foreign travelers.

The most visited spot in Western Visayas is Boracay Island in Aklan with 1.7 million visitors which included 1.58 million domestic, 132,687 foreign, and 38,826 overseas Filipino visitors.

The data indicated that only Boracay’s visitor figures were available for the whole of Aklan province.

The data does not count those who have stayed in private residences which are marketed as tourist accommodations through platforms including Airbnb and social media.

City Tourism and Development Office (CTDO) chief Junel Ann Divinagracia cited the return to physical events, especially those categorized under Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE), for the city’s “most visited status.”

She said that the drive-up in numbers were in line with the concept of “revenge travel”, with many visitors eager to travel outside their areas of residence and work after years of pandemic restrictions between March 2020 and late 2021

The 2021 data indicated that the city only had 211,194 visitors (195,941 domestic travelers and 15,973 foreign travelers).

Divinagracia also credited the active participation of accommodation establishments through their services and inculcating the city’s “Amoma” branding.

Amoma is the Hiligaynon word for hospitality.

“We are happy that we placed second to Boracay Island. Of course, we couldn’t beat Boracay. [This is] because of what we call ‘revenge travel’ after the pandemic. People have been wanting to go out and experience outdoor activities after the pandemic,” said Divinagracia.

“One of the things we can attribute to is the vacationists and workers who are earning more, especially those in the BPO sector, and who want to experience a different atmosphere outside of their homes, and they go to hotels and resorts to relax. Our accommodation establishments are benefitting from that, and we can see that through their occupancy rates which rose after the pandemic. We want to maintain that,” she added.

Divinagracia also mentioned that one of the best practices that they are continuously developing is the availability of information stations which include a Dinagyang Festival “warrior” costume which visitors may use for photo opportunities.

She said that they continue to improve tourism information assistance not only to MICE-based tourists and other visitor categories, but also to other tourism stakeholders as well.

Current physical improvements to the city are also part of their strategies.

“Our open spaces and plazas are [undergoing] continuous improvement, and we are also having ongoing conservation of heritage buildings. In the near future, we can finish our markets, which is one of the destinations where tourists can avail genuine Ilonggo products,” she said.

As to the other areas in the list, the city is followed by Bacolod City (618,682), Negros Occidental (510,022), Iloilo province (289,046), Capiz (169,666), Guimaras (106,841), and Antique (76,369).