MANILA -- Despite the challenges Mindanao suffered in terms of tourism promotion in the past few years, Department of Tourism (DOT) officials believe it is time to begin important projects in the region to shift tourists' attention to the country's unspoiled islands in the south.

DOT Secretary Wanda Teo made the announcement after spearheading the briefing of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on the side of the Cultural Convention Building ocular inspection at the Old Airport in Davao City on Tuesday, March 6.

The roster of projects for Mindanao includes the establishment of additional Tourist Information and Assistance Center (TIAC) to raise more awareness about beautiful sceneries and robust culture that can be experienced in the southern islands.

"Once the TIACs are up and running, more tourists will definitely come. We can be proud that we have breath-taking tourist destinations, and be assured that they will have a memorable experience because of the beautiful places," Teo said.

“It is a coordination with MinDA, and then of course, DOT and the LGU (local government unit),” she added. 

Aside from this, the DOT will also launch the Go South-Go Mindanao Bus which will traverse Davao City to Cagayan de Oro City. Riding the bus will allow tourists to witness beautiful sceneries along the way.

In addition, the government is also pushing for domestic tourism, urging tour operators to develop their respective domestic areas that can contribute to local economy.

Teo cited as examples the establishment of souvenir shops, and setting rest and food area packages, as part of developments along the bus routes.

Meanwhile, during the meeting with MinDA, the DOT was asked to assist in attracting tourists to visit Mindanao. Aside from promoting and renovating the Davao International Airport as a connecting hub to other destinations, the DOT was urged to also meet officials from airline and hotel companies in relation to managing rate increases.

It was noted during the meeting that the planned "no travel tax" in some airlines can contribute to the rise of tourist arrivals in Mindanao and also provide employment for locals.

“We will try our best to fast-track the proposal. No travel tax for countries, originating in Davao to other countries outside [and] we will coordinate [it] with the DOTr (Deparment of Transportation),” Teo said. (PNA)