By Johnny C. Nunez
LEGAZPI CITY (15-May-2013/PNA) -Tourists now flock in droves to Albay in a rush to catch up with the lingering activity of Mayon Volcano, the sudden outburst of which last May 7, despite its Zero level alert status, killed five climbers, four of them foreigners.
The massive tourists’ inflow is evidenced by the increased hotel occupancy rate by about 10 percent, from previous 80 percent to 90 percent, in the last few days.
Mayon’s mild volcanic activity provides an added attraction to Albay’s offer of a package of three more festivals for the Month of May, under the “Planet Festival Albay” concept which makes the province the festival capital of the country.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the beauty of Mayon, the string of year-round festivals, and the hospitality of the people of Albay are what tourists usually come for, and not really the mountaineering activities that attract only few adventurers.
Mayon had a phreatic explosion May 7 despite Phivolcs’ alert level Zero. It happened while two groups of climbers were scaling the vocano slopes near the crater. Five persons were reported killed in that rare display of trantrum.
“We are saddened by the accident and we are set to ban the activity perpetually to prevent more deaths in the future. “Mountaineering has never been our sponsored and recommended activity; it is even regulated,” Salceda explained.
Albay is set to ban mountain climbing at Mt. Mayon, with an ordinance soon to be passed, with a proposed penalty of one year in jail.
Meantime, Salceda issued a memorandum prohibiting any form of human activities within the volcano’s six-kilometer permanent danger zone. Previously, only human habitation was banned in the area.
Salceda said the increase in hotel occupancy rate by 10 percent, based on the report of hotel and lodge owners, only means more people are coming to Albay. “For one, we have the best ATV (all-terrain vehicle) experience in the world and nothing compares with it in its diversified track types, scenery that attract even foreigners,” he noted.
Hollywood actor Zac Efron recently tried Albay’s ATV experience in his brief visit to the province. Records show that more tourists come whenever Mayon acts up. The Philippine Tourism Association of the Philippines has earlier declared Albay as its Summer Destination 2013.
Albay’s three festivals in May include Karangahan sa Oas held May 1-8; Sarung Banggui in Sto. Domingo, May 10-20; and Layag in the fishing town of Rapu-rapu, May 10-27. They sustain the yearlong festive beat in Albay and Almasorca (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon-Catanduanes) the tourism alliance in Southern Bicol.
“In the next six months, Albay’s tourism marketing will build up on its “Warm Albay” summer theme, spiced up with a new value: Planet Festival -Warm Albay, Warm People,” according to Salceda.
The year round festivals organized by the governor, presage the opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport in Daraga town by year 2016, which is expected to open the floodgates for international tourism. Albay has three more festivals in June, one in July and five in August.(PNA)