SP lauds tourism council, affiliates

By Jason B. Neola


The four tourism-related events conducted in Naga City and the province of Camarines Sur on Dec. 3-5 this year have fired the opening salvo towards re-starting the tourism-driven objectives that aim to spur growth of the Bicol region economy.


In his privilege speech, Councilor Jose Perez, co-chair of the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Committee on Culture and the Arts/Tourism, said the events, which brought in the country’s top travel agents to Naga, are expected to jumpstart the operations of different industries in the city and Bicol with Covid-19 infection decreasing in the past several weeks.


The 17th Bicol Regional Tourism Congress, which was hosted by the city government, was participated in by guests from Metro Manila who arrived at the newly-minted Bicol International Airport in Albay.


It was followed by a Cultural and Modern Dance Reception at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex at the Provincial Capitol Complex in Pili, where the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS) conducted its general membership and business meeting.


On the following day, Dec. 4, the NAITAS Travel Show Bicol 2021 was opened at Robinsons Place Naga followed by Mayor’s Night and Modelo Bikolano show at Villa Caceres Hotel. The travel show simultaneously had an online virtual expo for local and international business-to-business (B2B) sellers and buyers.


Last Sunday, Dec. 5, the 2nd Tourism-Oriented Private Stakeholders or TOPS Summit was held at Robinsons Place Naga anew while some 54 travel agents and tour operators from all over the Philippines spent a night in Tugawe Cove in Caramoan.


In downtown Naga, City Tourism Officer Alec Santos led and amazed the visiting top officers of the prestigious Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) to a walking tour of the city’s historical and cultural landmarks. Santos highlighted the colonial history of Naga as one of the five original Royal Cities of the Philippines where the See of Caceres reigned for over 300 years.


Perez said before the pandemic, Naga was enjoying a tourism boom, having underscored itself as a premiere service center in Bicol.


E. Daniel A. de Leon, president of Bicol Regional Tourism Council, said during that time, the surge in the industry was felt because of the vibrant operations of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tour operators, tourism transport, tour guides, and other service-oriented businesses including barbershops, massage and wellness centers.


“BRTC along with other tourism-oriented groups in collaboration with the Tourism Promotions Board will give focus on selling Bicol as a world-class destination for tourism and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibits),” de Leon said.


“Our city was home to a hundred hotels and accommodation establishments and almost a thousand restaurants, resorts, travel agencies, and tour companies, souvenir and pasalubong shops, and wellness centers employing some 14,000 tourism workers,” the city councilor said in his speech.


Perez said that based on the records of the Department of Tourism in Bicol, in 2019 alone, 1.5 million visitors to Naga spent more than P50 billion, surpassing many other industries.


“On a regional scale, Bicol’s foreign tourist arrivals in 2019 peaked at 5.18 million, down to barely a million in 2020, or a growth rate of 83 percent, which translated to a foregone income of P11.9 billion,” he added.


Expressing high hopes that the Covid-19 pandemic is now coming to an end, Perez echoed Mayor Legacion’s commitment to support tourism growth and development. He said that he agrees with Mayor Legacion’s belief that the secret to success in tourism promotion is and always will be the private sector.


On Perez’s motion, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a resolution commending the various tourism-oriented organizations for spearheading the successful conduct of the events held in Naga City.