PANGLAO Island, Bohol (06 May 2007) - Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano has inaugurated the first phase of a P600 million upscale resort complex that is riding on the tourism boom in this province.
"This is a clear, big investment that is testimonial of the health of tourism in Bohol," Durano said, referring to the 10-hectare Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa, which is building 70 luxurious villas catering to the rich Filipino tourists and visitors from Europe, the United States, Australia, Japan and Korea.
Richard Lim, who is involved in salt production and shipping, said some 300 construction workers are being employed to finish the five-star project, that is expected to employ at least 120 resort and restaurant employees once completed.
Lim, the incoming president of the Greenhills Rotary in San Juan, said the first phase of the project, involving P150 million investment, is expected to be completed by July this year.
The project provides commanding views of the magnificent Mindanao Sea and features exotic villas, infinity pools and luxurious facilities.
He said this early, 15 villas are already available for occuppancy, with overnight rates ranging from $300 to $2,100. Some of the villas have own private swimming pools, whirlpool tub, outdoor spa, king-sized bed, spacious bathroom with vanity, mini-bar, and Internet connection.
Until recently, Panglao Island has stolen some of the glitters of the world-famous Boracay Island. Located at the southwestern tip of Bohol province, Panglao boasts of a long stretch of white-sand beaches embracing crystal-clear and blue waters.
Durano said the opening of the Panglao resort forms part of the additional 3,000 hotel and resort rooms that will be made available this year, to accommodate the growing number of international visitors and domestic tourists. International visitor arrivals peaked at 2.84 million last year and are expected to breach the 3-million mark for the first time this year, he added.
This idyllic island, one of the fastest growing destinations for foreign and local tourists, has also caught the attention of at least two international resort operators.
Durano said the Kingdom Hotel Investments which carries the Raffles and the Four Seasons brands, are looking at several properties in the island, lying about 370 kilometers south of Manila.
Another potential investor, Durano said, is the Singapore-based Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, one of the world's leading luxury resort and spa operators, which has recently found an island in Northern Palawan.
"A lot of things are really happening in tourism. We just need to sustain the demand. The private sector can do a better job in supply," he said.
He said Bohol is fast rising as a prime tourist destination for Japanese and Korean markets and will benefit from the construction of the P3.6-billion circumferential road and the proposed Panglao international airport.
Durano said the construction of the airport will start in 2008, once the procurement of land is completed this year. The project is seen to be finished by 2009.
"Bohol is becoming so popular that in Japan, Bohol is now packaged as the prime destination, with Cebu as the secondary," he said.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud has teamed up with Ayala Land to invest $150 million for a resort project in Bohol. The Saudi Prince is reportedly interested in the property of the Fonacier family, which owns the 168-room Bohol Beach Club.
Nearly half a million tourists, including about 40,000 foreign guests, visited Bohol last year, and the Department of Tourism expects this number to increase soon with the construction of more resorts and completion of vital infrastructure projects.
Executives of the nearby Bohol Beach Club, the largest resort in Panglao, confirmed this, saying that more than 80 percent of its 168 rooms were occupied.
Bohol Congressman Edgar Chato, who chairs the House committee on tourism, said there are only 2,500 hotel and resort rooms in Bohol at present, which are not enough to accommodate the influx of visitors.
Fe Ginete, sales and public relations manager of Tambuli Resorts, which operates the Bohol Beach Club, confirmed this, saying that Tambuli plans expansion projects for its resorts in Bohol and Cebu in the coming months in response to rising demand for accommodation in Central Visayas.
Congressman Edgar Chato said a masterplan for Bohol tourism is now being finalized, making it the first and only province developing a system for the tourism industry.
"Bohol is in the right place and the right time for the industry," Chato said. "It is a province worth investing in."
Aside from Panglao, other top attractions in Bohol include the 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped Chocolate Hills, the town of Corella which is home to endemic tarsiers, and the diving spots near Cabilao and Balicasag islands. Roderick T. dela Cruz