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DOT: Bicol among PH’s top 5 tourist destinations

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Bicol Region is now one of the top five tourist destinations in the country compared to its “sluggish” performance during the early ‘90s.

“Bicol is now a promising and rosy tourist destination compared to the other areas in the country as the number of visiting tourists, particularly foreign tourists, has tremendously increased annually, said Director Maria O. Ravanilla of the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office here.

She said the region has been attracting more foreign and domestic tourists as shown by the latest records posted by the agency.

DOT-Bicol records show that domestic and foreign tourist arrivals in all the six Bicol provinces and six cities in the region, that were recorded from January to June 2016, increased by 26.6 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

The total number of combined domestic and foreign tourists was 2,202,003 million from January to June 2015, while for the same period, the total arrivals in the region was 2,787,719 million.

In the first half of 2016, Camarines Sur, which is famous for its Caramoan group of islands, recorded the most number of combined domestic and foreign tourist arrivals with 613,062 in 2016. Albay which is known for the majestic Mayon Volcano was second with 352,483 arrivals.

Camarines Norte which has become known for its powdery white sand beaches such as Bagasbas Beach and the Calaguas Group of Islands, was third with 249,988 arrivals during the first half of 2016.

The records showed that for the same period, Catanduanes had 105,557 tourist arrivals, Sorsogon--86,735 and Masbate--40,651.

Among the five Bicol cities that include Legazpi City, Naga City, Iriga City, Masbate City and Sorsogon City, Legazpi City, a component city which is the capital of Albay province had the most number of combined foreign and domestic tourist arrivals during the first half of 2016.

The combined total tourist arrivals from January to June in 2016 in Legazpi City was 569,527, while Naga City was a close second with 560,586 total arrivals. Masbate City was third with total tourist arrivals of 106,882. But as to domestic tourist arrivals in the five cities, Naga City ranked first with 468,045 tourist arrivals during the first half of 2016 compared to Legazpi City with total visitors of 367,022.

According to the tourism department, the increasing tourist arrivals in Bicol has contributed multi-billion pesos in gross receipts to the Bicol economy and generated jobs for Bicolanos in various tourism-related industries in the region, specifically in hotels, restaurants, resorts, transportation, handicrafts and entertainment sector.

Ravanilla attributed the rosy tourism industry in Bicol to the joint initiatives of the private and government sectors who have been working together to build more infrastructure projects to be able to create new tourism hubs.

She cited that among the five Bicol cities, Legazpi City posted the highest growth rate of 27.7 percent of combined foreign and domestic tourist arrivals in the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015. Legazpi City recorded 569,527 total arrivals compared to total tourist arrivals of 445,867 for the same period in 2015.

“Naga City followed with a 16.47 percent growth rate for the two periods, with 560,586 arrivals for the first half of 2016, compared to 481,304 arrivals for the same period in 2015.

Ravanilla said the Legazpi City government under Mayor Noel Rosal has “fast tracked” the construction of a coastal road known as the 4.08-kilometer Legazpi City Boulevard.

“The boulevard, which passes through barangays (villages) Victory, Dapdap, Puro and Lamba, contributed to boosting such growth rate,” she said.

Barangay Lamba in Legazpi City connects to the Bicol International Airport in Barangay Alobo, Daraga. The groundbreaking of the new airport was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte early in December 2015. Ravanilla said this has meant more jobs, investments and more tourists for the Bicol region as a whole.

“This coastal road now serves as an alternate route to decongest traffic jam from the city proper and likewise provides commuters safe access and easy transport of their marine, livestock and agricultural products to the city’s newly built commercial centers,” she said.

Ravanilla said foreign investors are now eyeing Legazpi as the “most promising business and ecotourism hub in the country.”

She added that in the six provinces in the Bicol region, local government officials, from congressmen, to governors and mayors, have been working together to make tourism a vibrant industry in the region.

DOT-Bicol has acknowledged the private sector, specifically Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy S. Co, chief executive officer of the Sunwest Group of Companies, who has been putting in more investments in Bicol, particularly in Albay province, so that new corridors could be developed along the coastal and upland areas of Legazpi.

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