Albay tourist arrivals drop due to Mayon's lull — DOT

November 14, 2014 11:38 am 

By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 13 (PNA) — Arrivals of domestic and foreign tourists in Albay have been in a downward trend due to Mayon Volcano's long lull, now running 37 days after its alert level was raised to 3, a top Bicol tourism official said.

Department of Tourism Bicol Regional Director Maria Ravanilla said both domestic and foreign tourists had packed already up their bags to leave but opted to extend their stay when the news broke out that Mayon might be erupting anytime or at least within weeks.

"But after more than a week and they see no visual activities on Mayon, particularly the lava flow that they really crave to see, they just packed up and merely promised to come back the moment the volcano is already erupting," Ravanilla said.

She said room occupancy in the hotels here reached as high as 70 percent after Mayon's alert level was raised to 3 on Sept. 15 by volcano scientists.

But after a week that no lava flow-characterized eruption happened, Ravanilla said, the hotel room occupancy-rate dropped to as low as 28 percent, though some hotels maintained up to 50 percent occupancy due to small conventions.

She said though that a surge in tourist arrivals could be expected should Mayon's eruption be seen to be non-violent, similar to its eruption episode in 2009 where lava flow attracted tens of thousands of local and foreign tourists to Albay.

Ravanilla was also dismayed by the cancellation of the national "goodwill games" supposed to be attended by some 4,000 officials and personnel of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) slated on Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, and the national convention of the Institute of the Internal Auditors of the Philippines supposed to be held on October 22-25.

"Had these events not been cancelled, local businesses, particularly hotels and restaurants, could have benefited from our visitors," she said.

Despite the drop in hotel room-occupancy rate, still DOT-Bicol listed some 17,357 Filipino, and 10,053 foreign tourists from Oct. 1 to 15, Ravanilla said.

"These figures could increase up to three or five times once Mayon is already engaged in a mild eruption episode," Ravanilla said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) insisted to let alert level 3 stay over Mayon despite the lull in its tremors, drop in gas emission and slightly deflated surface.

Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta explained that despite the 2.4-millimeter surface deflation, Mayon is still inflated by more than 14 millimeters compared to the normal baseline data.

"This surface inflation means that magma buildup is sustained inside Mayon," Laguerta said.

The Phivolcs detected four volcanic earthquakes and three rockfalls, measured 272 tons of gas emission, and observed a faint crater glow during the past 24-hour observation period. A 300- to 400-meter long lava flow was also confirmed through an aerial survey on Tuesday.

Laguerta said that Mayon remains in a state of lull. (PNA)

LAP/FGS/SMT/CBD/EDS

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