SANTA ANA, Cagayan: Among the many regions in the Philippines, Cagayan Valley is getting noticed as a major tourist destination.
Palaui Island, the Callao Cave system and Batanes province are becoming popular destinations for travelers, but the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) is ramping up its marketing activities to attract more foreign tourists to the region.
Foe one, a CEZA delegation recently attended the Cruise Shipping Asia Conference in Hong Kong.
“We have also joined three airline industry conferences, the Routes Asia 2015 conference in Kunming, China, the World Routes 2015 Conference in Durban, South Africa, and a couple of weeks ago, the Routes Asia 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in Manila, where we put up our own booth to showcase Cagayan’s tourism sites,” said CEZA Chief Executive Officer and Administrator Jose Mari Ponce.
He added that Port Irene here will soon become a cruise ship destination and that Royal Caribbean has already visited Santa Ana. Ponce said CEZA is waiting for feedback from the cruise ship company on the setting up of an explorer type cruise.
Talks for more flights going to Cagayan are also being pushed.
In 2015, the Cagayan Freeport attracted 150,000 tourists, both local and international or 63 percent more than the 91,984 recorded in 2014. Chinese and American tourists made up the majority of foreign tourists visiting the region followed by travellers from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, India and Germany who also flocked to the fine beaches in Santa Ana town and the Callao Caves in Peñablanca town, both located in Cagayan province.
Major tourism drive
In March, the CEZA, in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Region 2 and Cagayan Provincial Tourism Office, conducted the First Cagayan Culture and Tourism Summit in Tuguegarao City with some 150 participants from various groups, such as tourism stakeholders – hotel and restaurant owners, tour operators, boat and service providers, as well as other local government units and agencies of Cagayan.
Ponce said the occasion became a venue to discuss significant agenda on culture and tourism that included defining and preserving Cagayan heritage and culture, promoting sustainable tourism development in Region 2 and fostering partnerships in development, among others.
Tourism officials said arrivals in the Cagayan Economic Zone and Freeport have also been steadily rising and benefiting the local community through its tourism programs boosted by infrastructure developments inside the zone as well as tourism developments outside the zone, on a national and international scale.
Ponce said because Cagayan Valley is getting more tourists, there is a need for tour operators to develop new tour packages to suit all sorts of tourists, from the day trippers, to scuba divers, to war tourism buffs and many other tourists.
“We need hotel and restaurant owners to step up their game, improve their facilities and cuisine to be world class and regionally competitive,” he added.