-This city needs more tour guides to assist tourists, provide correct information about the city and help remove the stigma that it's a place to be avoided or feared for safety concerns.
This is the sentiment of Zamboanga City tour guide Errold Bayona, who has been working with the Department of Tourism (DOT) for almost six years to achieve this goal.
He said that at present, there were a total of 12 DOT-accredited tour guides in the city, and was hoping the local government and concerned agencies would address this lack.
Bayona lamented that during a recent tour guide training program, out of over 70 expected participants, only 12 managed to show up and only four managed to secure accreditation from the DOT.
"The thing is people don't look at tour guiding as a career especially in a place that carries a reputation like that of Zamboanga," Bayona said in an interview.
He also said that there had been a huge gap in the ages of tour guides - some being 60-years-old and others being 30-years-old - because very few residents showed interest in it.
"Some train with us for a few years and eventually go abroad," he added, noting that tour guides were not well compensated.
Bayona meanwhile sought tourists to help boost the image of Zamboanga City by avoiding bragging to their friends and family about having "survived" their visit.
"Tourists don't come here because they think it's not safe while those that do come here brag about coming, leaving and surviving - which shouldn't be the case. We don't brag about surviving in other tourist destinations," he said.
He said that tourism stakeholders and ambassadors could start changing the city's bad reputation by proper information dissemination and constant advertising.
Data from DOT Mindanao showed that the island acquired around 8.5 million tourist arrivals in 2015 with the bulk of these arrivals coming from the Davao Region (Region 11) with around 2.8 million arrivals.
Meanwhile, the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) generated around 800,000 arrivals, Northern Mindanao (Region 10) with around 2.7 million arrivals, Soccsksargen (Region 12) with about 1 million arrivals and Caraga (Region 13) acquiring around 1.2 million arrivals.
DOT Secretary Wanda Teo vowed to fan Mindanao tourism under her term, especially since she herself and President Rodrigo Duterte hail from the same region.
Teo is looking at developing Zamboanga's pink sand beach, Las Islas de Santa Cruz, and the hidden paradise, 11 Islands, as new tourist destinations, particularly for backpackers.
Teo herself visited the pink sand beach on Friday to see the pink sand beach for herself and assure tourists that tourism in the Zamboanga Peninsula is safe regardless of the old stigma attached to its name.
"I personally came here because I want people to know that because 'the Secretary of Tourism was here', the more they should come here. I would like to show the world that Zamboanga is safe," Teo said.
Source: Philippines News Agency