The Negros Occidental provincial government kicked off its first LakBAYANIhan Fair on Monday, May 16, to boost its tourism industry, which had been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a vast potential for tourism, food tourism, farm tourism, and even sports tourism. Before the COVID crisis, our tourism industry was advancing and was steadily gaining ground. Let us take that momentum back,” Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said at the opening of the fair at the Ayala Malls Capitol Central in Bacolod City that will run until May 29.
Tourism Regional Director Cristine Mansinares said Negros Occidental and Bacolod City are ranked second in terms of the most number of accredited tourism enterprises.
The Department of Tourism is targeting 50 more enterprises in the area for accreditation during the fair, she said.
Safety is one of the top considerations of travelers now and tourism enterprises must adhere to a set of health and safety standards to be accredited, Mansinares explained.
Lacson said the fair will help bring back tourists to Negros Occidental.
“We’re hoping that things will really get better and that travelers will start coming back to Negros,” he said, but noted that airline passengers are still not that many.
“I guess the Filipinos are just waiting to see if the pandemic has really gone down,” he said.
“Officials are saying let’s wait two weeks after the elections to see if the pandemic has really tapered down,” Lacson added.
The tourism fair showcases Negrense arts, handicrafts, authentic local cuisine, destinations and the cultural festivities.
“It is now common knowledge that the tourism sector was among those gravely altered and affected by the COVID crisis,” Lacson said in his speech at the opening rites.
“And now, here we are, opening our province to travelers and tourism, though carefully and cautiously,” he said.
The fact that the first tourism fair since the pandemic began has been widely participated in by almost all local government units in the province, including Bacolod City, is a “demonstration and affirmation of our resilience”, he said.
The fair opening was attended by tourism stakeholders, including representatives of national tour operators’ groups, provincial government officials and Negros Occidental mayors.*