DOT-Bicol sets U.S. tourism, trade, investment mission

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LEGAZPI CITY — The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Tourism (DOT) is sending this month a mission to the United States (US) to promote the region’s potentials as a tourism, trade and investment destination. This will be the “14th Tourism, Trade and Investment Mission to the USA” wherein the delegates will be coming from three Bicol provinces that comprise the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Alliance (AlMaSorTA), the tourism road map conceptualized to achieve further development in the area, DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said over the weekend.

The alliance, formed two years ago by the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC), calls for a more integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the potentials of the regional tourism industry, eyeing around six million tourist arrivals by 2016, according to Ravanilla.

The mission that will stay in Miami, South Florida for one week, from July 8 to 15, will be composed of a two-man team led by Vice-Mayor Vittorio Roces; Gov. Vicente Homer Revil and Vice-Gov. Jo Kristine Revil of Masbate; Albay Vice-Governor Harold Imperial; and Ravanilla herself who, apart from representing her office, will also act as representative of the province of Sorsogon. On their arrival on July 8, the mission will meet with Miami-based cruise liner companies that offer Caribbean cruises in a series of benchmarking conferences on the upcoming establishment of an international cruise terminal here in support to the International Cruise Development Plan of the DOT, Ravanilla said.

The cruise terminal project conceptualized by the city government under Mayor Noel Rosal was recently approved by the DOT and endorsed to the Tourism Industry and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for funding and immediate implementation. It will be located within a vast site along the scenic Legazpi Boulevard, a four-kilometer seaside roadway along Albay Gulf now serving as a key tourism spot in the city.

On July 10-12, the group will be at the Bayanihan Arts and Events Center in Tampa, Florida for the 34th Annual Convention of the Bicolano National Association of America (BNAA) where Roces, along Councilor Allan Rañola, chair of the city legislative council’s Committee on Tourism — will present the city’s tourism products and investment opportunities. “We will be there on invitation of the BNAA for us to entice our fellow Bicolanos in the US to visit and stay in the city during their vacations or homecomings for them to see for themselves and experience why Legazpi is now known in the travel industry world as the City of Fun and Adventure and officially, one of the three most livable cities in the Philippines,” Roces said.

The invitation, signed by BNAA president-elect Helen Piloneo, is an offshoot of the successful hosting by the city government of the association’s 33rd Annual Convention at the Oriental Hotel and Resort here on July 19-21 last year, which was attended by over 500 representatives from the organization’s various chapters across the Continental USA. In this grand Florida gathering, Roces said, he and the members of his team will be presenting to the BNAA delegates, expected to be around 10,000 Bicolanos presently living in the US, the tourism development gains that the city has achieved over years of hard work by the city government in partnership with other industry stakeholders. “We will be there to show that indeed, the city government has specialized in eco-tourism and action tourism, providing the combinations of safety, adventure, fun and comfortable facilities that make the industry such an exciting proposition today,” Roces said.

The stimulating new horizons in tourism in the city’s outskirts allow visitors to push themselves to new levels of adventure and endurance while soaking up natural marvels and dramatic cultural attractions from the natural world, he said.

The city has great comparative advantage in this sector, based on several assets—guaranteed peace and order, healthful environment, hospitable communities and a base of powerful cultural attractions plus a wide range of very different, often stunning natural environments that are easily accessible and virtually undiscovered by the tourism industry.

Roces said quality hotels and restaurants throughout the city mean that thrill-seekers who want to pamper themselves in-between the adventure treks and fun engagements have a wide range of facilities to choose from. Nature enthusiasts, according to him, have many options in the city: the magnificent Mayon that offers a silent drama of mountaineering; ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rides around its lava-laden rugged terrain; or burying feet at the fine black volcanic sand bordering its beaches with enticing waters that provide relaxing interludes. Besides, the sparkling lower slopes surrounding of the Mayon, the world’s most perfect coned volcano, beckon hikers who seek new adventures over unconquered terrains, he said, adding that all of these await tourists on a 24/7 engagements.

Convincing the BNAA or its business-minded members to put up investments or do business in the city is another part of their mission, he added. In the same gathering, Ravanilla said, Masbate Vice-Gov. Revil will present the province as the “Home of Cowboys” that plays host to the yearly international rodeo competitions, the province’s top tourist drawer apart from its exciting eco-tourism sites. Ravanilla said she will present Sorsogon province as the “Cradle of Natural Beauty” owing to its stunning innate attractions like the whale sharks of Donsol, Bulusan Lake, Subic Beach of Matnog and hot springs at the foot of Mt. Bulusan. Imperial, assisted by board member Herbert Borja, chair of the provincial legislative board’s committee on tourism, will present the “Colors of Albay” — featuring festivals highlighted by colorful cultural merrymakings and prestigious pageants participated in by beautiful women, good-looking young men and talented gays. The rest of the mission’s stay, Ravanilla added, will be devoted to Business to Business (B2B) activities on investment and tourism among the BNAA, other Florida-based business parties and the Legazpi, Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon representatives.

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