Albay gets ready to become international gateway

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Albay Governor Joey Salceda (Contributed Photo)
Albay Governor Joey Salceda (Contributed Photo)

LEGAZPI CITY, 7Sept2013 (PNA) – Thrilled by its remarkable gains in tourism it is trying to sustain, Albay is now priming itself as a new gateway of foreign travel via chartered flights directly coming from major markets like China, South Korea and Russia.

“Ahead of the opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport now (under) construction in Daraga town, we are making use of the existing Legazpi Domestic Airport for chartered flights that will fly in foreign visitors who are making our province a new destination,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Saturday said.

The province, he said, is taking advantage of the foreign market trend showing that international tourists do not tend to repeat a local destination as they follow a cycle leading them from one place to another.

This trend, according to Salceda, creates a demand for a new Philippine destination other than Cebu, Boracay, Bohol and Laoag where there are existing flights from and to various cities outside of the country, particularly China.

Having Albay as a new direct destination for the Chinese travel market, for example, means getting them to start a cycle from January to March of each year wherein they would arrive via chartered flights Sunday and leave Thursday, he said.

With this, he said, the province will be expecting, in terms of arrivals, 200 persons per flight from China every five days for three months or 3,600 actual bodies who would be staying five nights — meaning 18,000 guests nights per year.

Based on reports of international tourism organizations, Chinese tourists spend US$ 300 per night.

“With this as an example, a conservative estimate of US$ 275 per Chinese guest per night would be equivalent to about P213 million in tourism receipts that Albay will get starting from the moment they arrive at the airport and as they go along with city tours, enter the gate of Cagsawa Ruins, rent ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), eat in restaurants, get services from local providers and occupy hotel rooms,” Salceda said.

These are all in line with his policy to achieve inclusive growth for the province that will have direct impact on the community.

According to Dept. of Tourism Bicol Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, local tour operators are working closely with this chartered-flight tourism program.

Arrangements, she said, have reached an 80-percent positive outcome insofar as the Chinese market is concerned.

Chinese travelers, however, are impulsive on the visa process, that is why their biggest drawers are Jeju Island and Bali, Indonesia that do not require entry visas, she said.

If the province’s initiative can find ways to provide ease and convenience so that entry requirements for this market are arranged to become as smooth as possible, then attracting Chinese tourists to Albay as an alternative “complete” destination has a very good chance, according to Ravanilla.

In this case, Salceda said, “we will be using the Laoag model as a guide in the processing of Tourist Group Visa (TGV) wherein tour operators will request for a recommendation letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) or its foreign post that a group of tourists will be visiting the province and this will serve as TGV for Chinese visitors.”

Besides, he said, there is already an agreement among countries regarding the laxity of issuing visas and on the problem with the Chinese market, with AJAX Rule, they are given 59 days upon landing in the Philippines.

A Multiple Entry Visa Upon Arrival or Note Verbale for Chinese and Indian visitors can be requested from the DFA foreign post at least one week prior to travel to the Philippines and they can stay for 59 days.

Japanese and Russian visitors can stay for 30 days and are not required to apply for entry visa.

For the Korean market, which is more on honeymooners and golfing travelers, on the other hand, tour operators are now working on the actual details such as visa needs and obtaining positive responses from the market, Ravanilla said.

On the Russian market, Vladivostok, the Far East city of Russia, has direct flights to Cebu and Kalibo but Russians are getting tired of these places, reason why they are seeking new destinations, she added.

Salceda said a Russian guest spends US$ 1,000 per night on incidental expenses, exclusive of accommodation costs.

Under this new tourism project, Salceda said, there will be chartered flights for the Russian market from November to March and Misibis Bay Resort will be allocating a minimum of 20 rooms for them every nine days, which means 180 room nights per cycle.

Misibis is a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of beach along the southern tip of Cagraray island in Bacacay, Albay, which is considered as the luxury island playground in the Philippines.

From these three travel markets alone, Albay’s estimated arrivals are 10,000 in the first year, probably 2014, when all requirements are satisfied, Salceda said.

These developments and surrounding issues were discussed in a recent conference of the Albay International Gateway Committee chaired by Salceda, and all told, he said, the province is now ready as a gateway for chartered international flights — making use for the meantime of the Legazpi Domestic Airport.

The completion of the construction of the SLIA in Daraga is expected by 2016.

Ravanilla agreed as, she said, her office has received a memorandum from the Secretary of DOT identifying eight priority international airports — and considering that the SLIA is already in the pipeline, it was suggested that concentration be focused on the Legazpi Domestic Airport for transient flights.(PNA)

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