is 10 years old

IJsselstein, Monday, 9 May 2011 05:56:02

Today, May 9, 2011, it is 10 years ago that was registered, and very shortly after, this website made its modest start.

When I first visited to Bohol, back in 1998, I oriented myself on the internet, but very little information was available at that time. I managed to get a little text from some tourist office promotional booklet, and that was about it.
Alona Beach from the air
Alona Beach from the air

After my first visit to Bohol, I quickly fell in love with the lush green island and its friendly people, diverse nature and rich cultural heritage, and realized this was a hidden gem, worthy far more promotion than that it was getting at the time, so I decided to promote it. A great opportunity came when domains in the Philippines became available for general registration, and formally started on May 9, 2001, initially as a few static web-pages, but quickly replaced with the current interactive website. If you are interested in what the site looked like at that time, visit the Internet Wayback Machine. For me, it is great to see back those early pages.

The first few years weren't great for Bohol's tourism. The happenings at 9/11 where also a disaster for international tourism, and bad press for the Philippines didn't help either. I remember being in Bohol in December 2001, that in that year just about 7000 foreign tourists found their way to the island, most of them being in some way already connected to the Philippines, or scuba-divers in the know, and even in the midst of the high-season, it was easy to find a resort. Arriving at the Chocolate Hills that time, we found ourselves the only visitors!

Things started to change around 2004. Arrivals started to increase, and Bohol was surely finding its way on the tourist map, both domestic and international. Resorts and Hotels sprang up at an amazing rate, and also other aspects of Bohol developed very quickly. During our first visit to Alona Beach in 1998, no telephone service what-so-ever was available, and paying with a credit-card required a 24-hour notice, to enable the resort owner to verify the card in Tagbilaran. In 2005, cell-phone coverage was achieved in almost the entire island. In 2003, the Dao bus-station was still in the middle of a huge empty wilderness. In 2005, the huge ICM shopping mall was put-up next to it. Around 2000, there were no flights to Bohol at all, and you could only fly to Cebu, today, over nine daily flights connect Tagbilaran with Manila. As a result, the economy in Bohol itself is growing rapidly, and many people are better of than before.
The Pier of Baclayon
The Pier of Baclayon

The number of tourists has increased tremendously. Within the Philippines, a trip to Bohol is getting more popular than a trip to Borocay, and internationally, Bohol is developing itself into the Philippine answer to Indonesia's Bali.

Of course, those developments not only bring good things. Not all of the newly opened resorts and hotels are up to standard, and megalomania sometimes seems to get the better of business people and politicians alike. On this site, I've been opposing the plans to build an international airport right behind the best-known beach of Bohol, and I am at a loss of words at plans to build Dubai-style artificial islands next to some of the best coral reefs of the Philippines and most bio-diverse ecological areas in the world.

On the other hand, I see great developments for tourist and the local population as well. Several newly-build resorts are world class, and are just waiting to be discovered by the international scene. Just think of up-style place such as the Peacock Garden setting a new standard. A sports-vacation is no longer limited to scuba diving, with the various rafting, climbing, spelunking, trekking, and cycling alternatives that have been developed in recent years, for example at EAT Danao.
Philippine Tarsier
Philippine Tarsier

After ten years, this site is having a hard time getting up-to date with all the new developments, and also has gotten some serious competition from other sites providing comprehensive information on Bohol -- something I really welcome, as it keeps me sharp and forces us to stay creative.

In the coming ten years, we hope to see Bohol develop further as a eco-tourism destination, with a responsible growth of great resorts and hotels, and attractions that respect the rich natural and cultural heritage of the province. We also hope that the income earned from this will continue to help support the Boholano people, who are always ever so friendly hosts to an increasing influx of visitors.

This site will continue to promote Bohol on the internet, with as complete as possible listings of resorts and hotels, information on things to do and to see, and all kinds of practical travel information. This summer, we will be touring Bohol once more to collect more information and more stories for this site.

Jeroen Hellingman