The separation of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City from Western Visayas (Region VI) will have a significant effect on the region’s tourist arrivals, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT-6).

Based on data from DOT-6, Negros Occidental and the highly urbanized city of Bacolod accommodated more than one million local and international tourists in 2023.

Of the 5.3 million tourist arrivals in the region last year, Bacolod accounted for 780 thousand visitors while Negros Occidental contributed 694 thousand tourists.

In a media interview, DOT-6 director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said she was “a bit sad about the separation because Negros Occidental and Bacolod have very unique tourism offerings.”

“They are big in nature, which attracts our Western markets. They also have unique culture and food,” she told reporters.

On June 13, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed into law a bill establishing the Negros Island Region (NIR), which will be composed of Negros Occidental, Bacolod, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

Despite the administrative separation, Rodriguez emphasized that historically and culturally, Negros Occidental and Bacolod could not be separated from Panay Island in the region.

“You can’t really separate them from Panay Island, especially since we have shared culture. The Sugar Trail, part of our shared history, includes Negros. They won’t be totally separated except administratively,” she said.

In order to address the effect, Rodriguez said they “will have to ramp up our tourism promotions” for the region.

“[We] will also be encouraging our [local government units] to discover more destinations. They can have exploratory assessments of destinations, which we can develop as a tourist destination,” she further said.IMT