Tourism stakeholders in the public and private sectors are optimistic about tourism recovery in Negros Oriental following the province’s hosting of the Dive 7 Festival of the Department of Tourism (DOT) recently.

DOT held the Dive 7 Festival from July 28 to 31 in the municipalities of Zamboanguita and Dauin, which are famed spots for divers because of wide areas of live corals and their proximity to Apo Island, a premier international diving destination.

Zamboanguita Mayor Jonah Pat Aviles said the four-day festival provided an avenue for the Local Government Unit (LGU) to show its readiness to accommodate tourists amid the pandemic.

Gikan sa pandemic ron atong gi-open ang atong tourism sites. Zamboanguita karon (naay) daghan dive sites para sa mga turista. Foreign or local naa gud ta para ani. Ang ikaduha, dili lang sa dagat ang atong para turismo. Daghan tang gi-declare as tourism spots sa atong lungsod. One of that is Jumao-as hot spring and Jumao-as Waterfalls ug ang atong Najandig Peak (We are opening our tourism sites following the pandemic. Zamboanguita has a lot of dive sites for foreign and local tourists. Second, our tourist attractions are not just limited to diving. We also have Jumao-as hot spring and Jumao-as Waterfalls, and Najandig Pak as other tourism spots),” Aviles said.

Aviles is banking on tourism to increase economic activity in his municipality especially with the plan to construct a new international airport in nearby Bacong town.

Zamboanguita Diving and Leisure Resorts Association (ZDLRA) President and Allura Resort Dive and Spa Operations Manager Erlyn Villaflores-Baldoza also welcomed this initiative of the DOT.

“This is a good way for us to encourage divers and diving enthusiast to recognize Zamboanguita as a diving and tourist destination not just in Negros Oriental but also in the Philippines and the international arena,” Baldoza said.

Baldoza reported that tourism in the town is slowly going back to normal as resorts are now operating at 50% to 70% capacity.

Aside from this, most of the resorts are also offering 20% discounts to direct clients to help the industry rise up from the ill-effects of the pandemic.

Dauin Councilor and Chairperson on the Committee on Tourism Alvin Truita also believes that through this event, local and foreign tourists will have a memorable experience in the province.

DOT7 Chief Tourism Operations Officer Judy Gabato disclosed that the festival is part of the agency’s programs to promote and develop premier tourist destinations in the region.

It is also in line with the directive of new Tourism Sec. Christina Frasco to collaborate with LGUs in carrying out tourism-related activities.

Around 40 local and foreign divers participated in the activity.

Dive 7 Project Director Gloris Du said the four-day event was marked by various activities such as different underwater competitions, mermaid-swimming activity, full face mask activity, and coastal clean-up activities.

“We want to always make sure that we promote sustainable tourism through the clean-up activities,” Du said.

Meanwhile, Negros Oriental Deputy Governor Erwin Macias hopes that this initiative will lead to more tourists coming to the province.

“Hopefully, you will come back next year for another round of Dive 7 and we will have more guests and participants. We make it a point to make sure that you have a pleasant stay and experience here in Negros Oriental,” Macias said.