LEGAZPI CITY: While the Philippines and China continue with its territorial sea dispute, Chinese tourists have chosen Albay province as a tourism haven in the country following a unique and wonderful eco-tourism tour here.
Terrence Fang of Yueqiho International Travel Agency told The Manila Times that more than 200 Chinese tourists opted to spend their Chinese New Year in Bicol because of the natural wonders and the numerous tourist options that it offers.
“We’ve been to Cebu, Boracay, Davao and other parts of the Philippines but this time we’ve chosen Legazpi City as our new destination because of its natural and beautiful eco-tourism sites like the incomparable Mayon volcano, dolphin watching in Sto. Domingo, beautiful Misibis Bay Resort and Casino in Cagraray Island, Bacacay Albay and whale shark interaction in Donsol Sorsogon. When you set foot in Legazpi, this is the one-stop-shop where you can go anywhere with beautiful and friendly people,” Fang said.
When asked if they’re not affected by the ongoing territorial dispute involving the Philippine government and China, Fang said that they don’t care about political disputes.
The big influx of Chinese tourists in Bicol, specifically in Albay province, began last year after the Department of Tourism, in partnership with Sunwest Group of Companies (group of resorts) worked together to set up direct flights from China to Legazpi City. The move is expected to boost the economic and tourism growth here.
Maria Nini Ong-Ravanilla, DOT regional director in Bicol, said that after 14 years of working hard to sell the wonders of Bicol in partnership with the private sector, Albay was finally chosen by foreign tourists to become a new major destination in the country.
Last year, the Legazpi City National Airport was upgraded as Albay International Gate- way for Chartered Flights to accommodate more visiting Chinese tourists.
Ravanilla said they’re targeting one million foreign tourists in Bicol by 2016.
She said that among the six provinces in Bicol, Albay ranked first with foreign visiting tourist arrivals while Camarines Sur tops with its high number of domestic tourists due to annual Peñafrancia Festival.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the opening of the Albay International Gateway for Chartered Flights is a great moment in Albay tourism as it will infuse big economic growth here.
“The Albay program on China tourism promotion should be seen within the context of people-to-people exchange and interaction which have occurred for a long time with robust trade between Albay and China even before the Spanish rule,” he added.
The Department of Tourism in Bicol is also eyeing Shanghai and Incheon in Korea for direct flights in the coming months. Salceda said that they’re targeting at least 150,000 tourists this year, which reportedly means $150-million in fresh resource injection into the local economy or an equivalent of P6.5 billion.