Most Bicol LGUs give tourism priority in development plans

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By John Mark Escandor

LEGAZPI CITY, 30Sept2013 (PNA) – At least 70 percent of local government units (LGUs) in Bicol are prioritizing projects that are connected with the development and promotion of tourism sites in their respective areas, according to a top local tourism official.

Maria “Nini” Ravanilla, Department of Tourism Bicol regional director, said she was overwhelmed by the participants in the first “Bicol Regional Tourism Summit” held here on Thursday and Friday last week wherein 70 percent of LGUs in the region participated.

“We were expecting about 350 target participants but more than 500 LGU representatives showed up at the summit held from September 28-29 and participated in by LGUs all over the region,” Ravanilla said.

The summit participants interacted in the workshops that deal with product development, introduction and promotion in the context of marketing a locality as tourist destination.

Ravanilla said the LGUs and tourism stakeholders have to confront limitations and shortages in facilities like how to promote the place when the roads are bad or accommodation facilities are not established yet.

The output of the workshops calls for the convergence of other agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways to build access roads in localities where tourist arrivals are already regular and consistent.

Ravanilla said that when a locality reaches a point when promotion is catching up and tourists are coming in, the DOT initiates convergence with agencies like the DPWH for public infrastructures through a bottom-up budgeting.

She is optimistic of the continuing growth of tourism industry in Bicol with 7.9 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, which grew from 3.1 million to 3.6 million tourist arrivals.

Ravanilla said Camarines Sur and Naga City maintained their lead in tourist arrivals in 2012 which, she said, was attributed to the yearly Peñafrancia fiesta where more than a million devotees from all over the world attend the regional festivities.

She noted a seeming competition between Naga City and Legazpi City, both top performers in tourist arrivals in Bicol, to bid for hosting of conventions and national events to increase tourism income.

Ravanilla aired her apprehension regarding the decline of tourists in Donsol because of the scarcity of whale shark visit this year but, she said, she was surprised there was a five-percent growth of tourist arrivals in Sorsogon for the first quarter.

Ravanilla cited Almasor (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon), a tourism product hatched by Albay Gov. Jose Maria Salceda, which, she said, contributed to the increase of 29 percent of tourist arrivals in Albay in the first quarter of this year compared to last year’s.

The clustering is based on geographical proximity of the provinces which, she said, allows packaging of variety of destinations that interest tourists.

Ravanilla said they have already dry-run several times the number of the days tourists could possibly visit all the destinations in Almasor to at least five days.

The DOT regional head said it is estimated that every one foreign tourist spends US$ 90 a day while a local tourist may shell out more than P1,000 for every day stay in Bicol. (PNA)

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