|File photo of the econocrete pouring at the Bicol International Airport runway (Project Management Office)|
LEGAZPI CITY—Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) chief executive officer Mario Hardy foresees a heavy influx of tourists to Albay once the new and modern Bicol International Airport (BIA) gets operational in 2017.
Hardy with Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez, co-presided the recently concluded PATA New Frontiers Forum here. DOT and Albay co-hosted the forum only last November 25-27 at the Oriental Hotel in this Bicol regional hub.
The PATA executive urged Albay to sustain its effective ecotourism industry and further expand its infrastructure support facilities like the BIA that will offer direct flights and help “intensify destinations connectivity.”
“Albay has tremendous potential, I can see a very good future for the tourism industry here, and when the new international airport opens, you can expect a huge influx of tourists flooding in,” he said.
During the forum, Secretary Jimenez noted that “Albay alone can provide fun and adventure equivalent to a small country,” referring to the province’s prize-winning tourism assets and program. “Albay may have less than a million visitors a year now but its potential is way beyond that,” he stressed.
Hardy agrees with Jimenez and said Albay’s lead role as a ‘new frontier’ destination in global travel, has been confirmed when it won the Top Destination Award PATA CEO Challenge 2015, conferred on it in London last month. The lead role becomes even more significant with its ecotourism program hinged on a wise strategy in adapting to the impacts of climate change.
The New Frontiers Forum here was attended by 561 travel and tourism executives from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Fiji, Guam, Hongkong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
“The choice of Albay as venue for the PATA New Frontiers Forum also reflects our primary advocacy of dispersing tourists to lesser-known yet attractive corners of the world like Albay which has been recognized as such when it won the PATA award, he said. He noted that the forum’s theme, “Ecotourism-Transcending Climate Change” perfectly fits Albay being the United Nation’s Global Model in adapting to the impacts of Climate Change.
Salceda presented Albay’s strategy for a strong tourism program during the PATA forum. A noted economist, he stressed that investments in tourism generate more returns for every dollar spent on it.
Albay’s ecotourism program is a standout with its rich ecosystem. It is home to Mayon, the world’s near perfect-cone mountain and one of the most active volcanos in the Pacific. It is tentatively listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It also boasts of some 462 species of flora, 137 of which are endemic and are in a protected Biosphere under UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme.
Salceda said beyond its natural wonders, Albay has more to offer in terms of leisure, adventure, travel, and research. It pursues a culture-based tourism, similar to that of Bali, Indonesia, and is now home to 21 native festivals celebrated by its three cities and 15 municipalities. The festivals showcase the local culture and arts.
Albay’s climate change adaptation program has been acclaimed world wide as a global model. Flattened to the ground by Typhoon Durian in 2006, the province rapidly recovered, using tourism as one of its principal tools for reconstruction. Foreign tourists influx swelled to over 339,000 last year from only 8,700 in 2006. Within the same period, it built 320 kilometers of roads that provide access to new and unique destinations. (by Johnny C. Nunez, PNA)
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