After rising from 'Reming' devastation, Albay now haven of foreign tourists in Bicol

March 18, 2015 6:05 am 

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) — Rising from the devastation wrought by super typhoon "Reming" in 2006, Albay province has completely regained its economic and tourism glory, Maria "Nini" Ravanilla, Department of Tourism Bicol regional director, said Tuesday.

"Owing to the unique and natural wonders of ecotourism destinations, Albay province has now become the favorite destination of foreign tourists for the past few years — boosting the economy and investment in Bicol, specifically the region’s capital hub," Ravanilla said.

There has been a big influx of foreign tourists coming regularly, boosting economic trade, thus, creating jobs for the Bicolanos as more investors are putting up businesses here, she claimed.

“Albay has been consistently ranked first in foreign tourist arrivals for the past few years, boosting our economy and creating job in the countryside, outside Manila,” Ravanilla said.

The DOT earlier named Albay province as the Star of Philippine Tourism for moving forward from 8,700 foreign tourists in 2007 to 339,000 in 2013 and close to 400,000 in 2014.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda invested in tourism development, specifically the creation of the so-called Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon or Almasor Tourism Alliance to promote the region’s tourism with essentially diversify product lines including cultural exchanges during festivals and infrastructure linkages.

“We invested in infrastructure, making our destinations accessible. At the top is the Southern Luzon International Airport which I started when I was chairman of House appropriations committee. Foreign tourism is booming in southern Bicol, the soul of the South — Almasor. Foreign tourists grew from 146,813 to 362,203,” Salceda said.

The Regional Development Council in Bicol led by Salceda also approved the creation of Guidale road network that will link up Daraga, Camalig and Legazpi — which surrounds the airport — and Almasor which also links up to Sorsogon.

As to the completion of SLIA, Salceda said it will take about three more years based on Department of Transportation and Communications' pace as it will be completed by July 2017 but the horizontal structure will be 100-percent complete in May.

“The DOT-DPWH TRIPPC prioritized our two major networks — the Albay-Donsol road and Daraga to Donsol boundary road to link up and expedite the trip time of travelers,” the governor said.

The construction of new road network through Guidale greatly helped the promotion of the so-called Soul of the South ecotourism promotion in Bicol.

The significant increase of foreign tourists has been noted since 2010 up to-date. This year alone, a group of wealthy foreign tourists across the globe dubbed as Zegrahm Expedition arrived in Bicol waters a few weeks ago through the Caledonian Sky, a luxury ship from US with Filipino crew.

The luxury ship carrying about 100 wealthy couples, mostly Europeans and Americans, disembarked in Bicol waters in a top-secret voyage here where they visited the natural ecotourism destinations in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate.

Ravanilla said the Zegrahm Expedition team was the first-ever salvo in Philippines wherein the wealthy tourists went to Daraga, Legazpi and San Miguel Island in Tabaco City to see the different angles of the world’s perfect cone-shaped Mayon volcano.

In Donsol town in Sorsogon, the voyagers interacted with the gentle giant fish in the world — the butanding or whale shark.

They also visited the Ticao Island, specifically the Catandayagan Falls, and interacted with the local community and visited the Togoron Elementarty School in Ticao, Masbate.

The wealthy couple-explorers also had the chance to plow and plant rice in the fields in Sibuyan Island during their visit in Philippines. Adrienne Centano, marketing manager of Zegrahm Expedition said the expedition in Philippines has been a great success as the explorers experienced the Philippines' captivating mix of eastern and western cultures, exceptional snorkeling and diving, and lush, tropical forests filled with a variety of endemic flora and fauna.

But the special highlight according to Centano, is the opportunities to interact with native cultures whose customs are reflected in their intricate tribal dress, colorful dances and rich folklore.

“The expedition is not offered annually–our itineraries vary year to year, rarely visiting the same region twice. We will be visiting again in 2016 and then probably not for a few years after that. Our expeditions are geared towards curious explorers — people who are interested in discovering unique destinations and learning about/interacting with culture and nature when they travel,” Centano said. (PNA)

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