PALOMPON, Leyte -- Nearly 400 tourists from Germany and German-speaking countries explored on Sunday Leyte’s premier tourist destination -- Kalanggaman Island.
The foreign tourists were on board MS Europa 2, the highest-rated cruise ship in the world operated by German-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, according to the Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.
The cruise ship arrived past 10 a.m. on Sunday in Kalanggaman.
Tourists set foot on the island past noon after the ship's crew finished setting up for their guests. The ship left the island around 10 p.m. and sailed to Bohol.
Of the 458 cruise ship passengers, at least 379 explored the island and enjoyed tourism activities such as swimming at its turquoise clear water, stand-up paddle, barbeque at the beach, watching performances of dance troupe from Palompon Institute of Technology, and walking at the more than a kilometer-stretch of sandbar.
“The island is the best that we ever had been on,” cruise director Stefanie Laemmerhirt shared.
“The tourists are so happy and so in love with it and also the local dance they are so happy here. When they come to the island, they already feel that they are so welcome and that’s the best thing ever,” Laemmerhirt added.
Before the Kalanggaman tour, the group made a stop in Coron, Palawan, Romblon, and Manila.
“This is like a paradise,” Frauke, a German tourist, said. “We enjoy the weather here very much. It’s unusual far from our places in Germany where it’s snowing right now. We are very happy with our stay here.”
Since January 2014, Kalanggaman had been part of Philippine itinerary of MS Europa 2.
It is quite and remote location is “very ideal” for the cruise ship passengers looking for a place to relax and unwind, away from the busy and noisy settings of city life, according to the tourism department.
“There’s so much change five years from the first time I visited this island. The first time I was here, there were no facilities, but now, we all have the possibility to get our passengers on and have everything ready for them,” Laemmerhirt said.
Errol Chicano, Intercruises regional product manager, a company based in Singapore, said he is happy on the positive feedback from passengers.
“This is an opportunity for us because the passenger can recommend and promote Kalanggaman to their friends in Germany and other German-speaking countries,” Chicano said.
Chicano added that with the beautiful experience of MS Europa 2 passengers in Kalanggaman, it is not hard for the management to decide to return to the island and bring more foreign tourists.
Raoul Bacalla, head of the Palompon municipal environment and natural resources office, said the visit of MS Europa 2 to Kalanggaman is a wonderful start for the tourism industry of Palompon town.
Tourism is the top source of income for the local government unit with Kalanggaman as their top performing destination.
“In 2018, the island posted PHP22.4-million income despite closing the island for 33 days for our regular clean-up drive and maintenance,” said Bacalla.
Last year’s income is higher than PHP18.5 million in 2017, and PHP16 million generated in 2016 and a big leap from the PHP3.6-million income in 2014 after the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Income in Kalanggaman is source out from payments of visitors.
A foreign visitor pays PHP500 for a day tour and PHP750 for overnight stay in the island.
A local tourist has to pay PHP20 to PHP150 for day tour, and PHP30 to PHP225 for overnight camping.
The rate for domestic tourists varies for local residents, students, non-students, and senior citizens.