TACLOBAN CITY – New ferry and air routes connecting the region to other parts of the country are expected to enhance the competitiveness of the region as a travel and vacation destination, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Thursday.

DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said these new routes are an important factor in making a place market-ready and providing additional accessibility by land, air and sea.

Tiopes noted that about two weeks ago, the Kho Shipping Lines launched the Maasin City route for one of their fleets connecting Southern Leyte to Mindanao through Surigao port and Central Visayas via Cebu port.

The operation of Kho Shipping Lines is an expansion from the existing roll-on, roll-off ports in Liloan and San Ricardo port that links Southern Leyte to Surigao.

“This is a positive development, especially for our dive markets as it gives guests another option to reach Southern Leyte. Foreign and even domestic tourists going to Sogod Bay Dive sites will now find it more convenient to take the ferry boat from Cebu to Maasin. Ferry route to Surigao also opens up tourism and trade opportunities not just for Maasin but also for other towns in the first district of Southern Leyte and those in the fifth district of Leyte,” she said.

Ocean Jet also recently launched the Palompon-Cebu route through its fast craft. The town of Palompon in Leyte is known for its picturesque Kalanggaman Island, the most visited destination in the province.

Before the new sea route, Palompon is accessible from Cebu through the airport in Tacloban City and seaport in Ormoc City.

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) will launch its maiden flight from Cebu City to Borongan City in Eastern Samar. The flag carrier also made flight arrangements to connect Borongan to Manila through Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

“The Cebu-Borongan-Cebu flights of PAL increase the opportunities to capture the Central Visayas tourists market as well as those using Cebu as their international gateway or port of entry to the Philippines,” Tiopes said.

“With Cebu as a domestic flight hub, it also enhances connectivity between Eastern Samar towns and Cebu, plus to key areas in the country that are connected by air through Central Visayas,” she added.

Tiopes urged the transport companies to ensure safe and pleasant travel, above-par services, value-for-money facilities, and high-quality tourist experience to “optimize the windows of opportunities” for tourism. (PNA)