Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tourist Destination: CamSur water sports complex

PILI, Camarines Sur (03 October 2007) - A provincial government-run water sports complex in this capital town has reinvigorated tourism and business activities in Bicol, prompting investors to open new hotels to accommodate the influx of foreign guests.

"In the first six months of 2007 alone, more than 57,000 foreign tourists visited Bicol, easily surpassing the 49,000 international visitors in the whole of 2006," said Maria Ong Ravanilla, the regional tourism officer for Bicol.

Ravanilla, speaking at the sidelines of the 8th national convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) held at the world-class Cam Sur water sports complex, said that because of increased arrivals in Bicol, a 65-room first-class facility called Avenue Plaza Hotel opened in Naga City recently.

In Legaspi City, the Holiday Inn group won the bid to operate a 90-room hotel to be called LKY Hotel & Resort, she added.

Ravanilla said the Cam Sur water sports complex has buoyed tourism and business activities in Daet and the nearby Naga City while the whaleshark interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon had spillover effects on Naga City.

Including domestic tourists, she said Bicol drew 447,000 visitors in the first half and is on track of posting over 800,000 arrivals in 2007 for the first time. In 2006, Bicol received only 635,000 guests and in 2005, the number was only 501,000.

This year, Bicol is expected to benefit from P445 million in tourism revenues, up from P305 million in 2006, she added.

Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab credited the provincial government of Camarines Sur headed by Governor L-Ray Villafuerte for inducing tourism in Bicol.

"That is the advantage of having a young provincial governor with a vision for tourism," he said, adding that other local leaders are now looking at Camarines Sur as a model for tourism development. Roderick T. dela Cruz

Arrivals top 2 million in 8 months

PILI, Camarines Sur - International visitor arrivals to the Philippines hit two million in just the first eight months of 2007, putting the country on track of its target of drawing over 3 million foreign guests this year and 5 million by 2010.

"We will break the 3-million mark in international visitor arrivals for the first time this year," Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab said during the 8th national convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines held at the world-class Cam Sur water sports complex.

Palabyab said tourism can be an effective catalyst for economic growth that can replace overseas Filipino workers' remittances as a source of foreign exchange in the future. "All the big companies are now into tourism development," he noted.

He said that in 2006, the country generated $2.7 billion in tourism receipts, but this can exceed $10 billion if concerted efforts are undertaken to promote tourism as a tool of economic development.

Palabyab admitted, however, that more investments would be needed to establish 20,000 hotel rooms to accommodate 5 million visitors over the next three years.

According to the Tourism Research and Statistics Division, international visitor arrivals reached 2.054 million in January to August this year, up by 8.5 percent from 1.893 million a year ago.

In August alone, arrivals jumped 10.3 percent year-on-year to 221,198, on the back of double-digit increase in the number of guests from Korea , China , and Hong Kong .

The League of Cities headed by Mandaluyong City Benhur Abalos Jr. said local leaders are now discovering tourism as an engine of economic development.

"We are going to sell Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for tourism program," Abalos said. "There is beauty all over the country."

Tourism officials said the Cam Sur water sports complex, which will host the 2008 World Wake Boarding Competition in July next year, proves that tourism projects spearheaded by local government units can be effective in inducing economic growth.

With the completion of the six-hectare water sports complex in May 2006, visitor arrivals in Camarines Sur surged 67 percent to 180,804 in the first five months of 2007 from 108,450 during the same period in 2006, according to provincial tourism officer Mariefe Nolasco-Maralit.

Of the total number of visitors, 17,897 were from other countries such as Germany , Austria , Japan , the United States and Australia .

Maria Ong Ravanilla, the regional tourism officer for Bicol, said that because of increased arrivals in Camarines Sur and other parts of Bicol region, a 65-room first-class facility called Avenue Plaza Hotel opened in Naga City recently.

Ravanilla said Bicol drew 447,660 visitors in the first half and is on track of posting over 800,000 arrivals in 2007 for the first time. In 2006, Bicol received only 637,127 guests and in 2005, the number was only 501,000.

This year, Bicol is expected to benefit from P445 million in tourism revenues, up from P305 million in 2006, she added.

Palabyab credited the provincial government of Camarines Sur headed by Governor L-Ray Villafuerte for inducing tourism in Bicol.

"That is the advantage of having a young provincial governor with a vision for tourism," he said, adding that other local leaders are now looking at Camarines Sur as a model for tourism development.

Abalos said that to ensure that other cities will benefit from growth in tourism, the League of Cities will support House Bill No. 202, mandating that each local government unit assign a tourism officer. Roderick T. dela Cruz

 

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