MAJOR ATTRACTION. Department of Tourism Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano (center) joins Mayor Sol Matugas (left) and former Surigao del Norte Gov. Francisco Matugas (right) during the ceremonial breaking of a surfboard on Wednesday (Sept. 28, 2022), one of the major highlights of the 1st Mayor Sol’s National Surfing Competition in Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Tamano noted that surfing has, for years, been the major attraction for local and foreign tourists on the island. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

GEN. LUNA, Siargao Island – Sports tourism, particularly surfing, has drawn thousands of local and foreign tourists to Siargao Island, notably in this town over the past years, a Department of Tourism (DOT) official said on Wednesday.

“Sports tourism has two faces, the active sports tourism, and the passive sports tourism,” DOT Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano said when he graced the breaking of a surfboard ceremony here.

He said active sports tourism involves the athletes, coaches, and officials, while the passive are those that come and gather to witness the sporting event.

The ceremonial breaking of a surfboard was among the highlights of the opening of the 1st Mayor Sol’s National Surfing Competition.

Tamano was joined by Department of Health Undersecretary Leonita Gorgolan, Gen. Luna Mayor Sol Matugas, and former Surigao del Norte Gov. Francisco Matugas, among other top local officials during the ceremony.

“The surfers are the ones who pull local and foreign tourists to come to Siargao,” Tamano said, as he hoped for the other destinations in the country to find out what Gen. Luna is doing in its tourism activities.

Surfing has been a major sporting event on the island for the past 30 years.

This year's staging of the international competition on Oct. 15 – 21 will be its 26th.

Brutal years

The pandemic that hit the country in 2020 and the devastation brought by Typhoon Odette in December last year have been detrimental to the tourism industry on Siargao Island.

DOT-Caraga (DOT-13) data showed a sudden drop in tourist arrivals on the island in 2020 and 2021.

From 257,900 in 2019, of which 74,858 were foreign tourists, the arrivals in Siargao dipped to 67,717 in 2020, composed of 49,681 local and 18,036 foreign visitors.

It added that in 2020, no local and foreign arrivals were registered in April, May, and October on the island.

In 2021, the number further declined to 28,287, consisting of 27,553 local and 737 foreign guests.

The onslaught of “Odette” compounded the effects of the pandemic, as the calamity left more than PHP1 billion in losses to the island, displacing thousands of workers in the tourism industry.

Bouncing back

However, the DOT-13 records indicated the gradual return of tourist arrivals on the island during the first two quarters of this year.

It showed that 9,249 arrivals were registered on the island during the period, 8,245 of which were local visitors and 1,004 were foreigners.

Data from the local tourism office in Gen. Luna also indicated some 44,482 arrivals registered in the town from April to August this year.

Of the total, 41,796 are local visitors from the different regions in the country while 2,686 are foreigners.

A registry at the Cloud 9 surfing site here also indicated that 11,688 local tourists visited the area from Sept. 1 to 25.

In an interview Thursday, Matugas said she agreed with Tamayo that surfing remains the island's major attraction.

“With a national surfing event now taking place here, we are seeing thousands of arrivals, not only in Gen. Luna but also in the whole of Siargao,” Matugas said.

Expressing optimism, she said the upcoming international surfing competition next month will attract more visitors, especially foreigners, to witness the event.

October is considered the surfing month with more foreign visitors coming to the island, either to surf, compete, or witness the international surfing event.

In October 2019 alone, some 9,691 foreign tourists visited the island. (PNA)