Bicol’s young tourism cluster to learn from success stories of older counterpart

By on August 18, 2015

Legazpi Port (Photo from Trina Anne / Blogspot)
Legazpi Port (Photo from Trina Anne / Blogspot)

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 16 (PNA) — Triple C, the newly-formed cluster of tourism areas in Bicol, will be learning from the success of its older counterpart—the AlMaSor– in advancing the travel industry of its own ground.

This new cluster is the alliance of three provinces—Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines — thus, the moniker captioned “Gems of the Pacific” for its geographical location along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

It was formed by the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC) late last year into a Tourism Development Area (TDA) which the Department of Tourism (DOT) has placed under its 2015-2020 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

The NTDP, according to DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, recognizes every part of Bicol as a tourist attraction, hence, the clustering that provides strategic directions and programs to make local tourism products more competitive are formulated.

Its formation was formalized through the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among governors of the three provinces, which ensures the commitment towards working with local government units (LGUs) and the private sector into the pouring in of more tourism development investments.

Improvement of market access, connectivity, destination infrastructure; and enhancement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities, Ravanilla said, are the primary strategies that the BRTC are instituting toward this end.

A Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of the regional offices for Bicol of the DOT as lead agency and National Economic Development Authority, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior and Local Government as among the members, works on these strategies.

AlMaSor, on the other hand, is the older cluster also formed by the BRTC for the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon into a tourism alliance conceptualized as the tourism road map for Bicol designed to achieve development not only in the mainland provinces of Albay and Sorsogon but also in the island of Masbate.

AlMaSor, which debuted its global exposure at the 2013 Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB)-Berlin, puts in place a more integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the potentials of the regional tourism industry, eyeing some 650,000 foreign tourist arrivals in the area annually within five years.

The cluster features Albay with its Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins among the other tourism marvels of the province; Sorsogon offers its butanding (whale shark) interactions; while Masbate has its unspoiled world-class beaches.

As part of the Triple C learning process, its TWG has slated a series of tours of AMaSor within this month for its members to gain insights from its success stories that can be replicated, such as tourism involvement and participation of communities and how they benefited from managing tourism sites, Ravanilla over the weekend here said.

Triple C, according to her, would learn from the successful implementation of the AlMaSor Tourism Development Plan in creating synergy in tourism development, through the combined efforts and resources of the stakeholders, which has found its way into the global market.

It is important that success stories of the AlMaSor be incorporated in the Triple C area development plan, she stressed.

“The 3C is formed to complement the existing tourism blueprint of AlMaSor and with a 15-percent increase in tourist’s arrival every year, we can say that it is possible that we can attract six million visitors to Bicol by 2016.

Hence, the development and promotion of this younger cluster is very much necessary,” Ravanilla said.

The target, she said, is not difficult to realize since this city, now emerging as a favorite venue of big national and international gatherings like conventions and summits, is contributing tremendously to the number of arrivals in a year-round basis owing to its being known today in the world travel industry as the City of Fun and Adventure.

The city alone, which received around 700,000 tourists last year after surpassing the half-million mark in 2013, is expected to make it 800,000 this year as it aims for a million arrivals by 2016.

The 2016 goal insofar as Legazpi is concerned, Ravanilla said, is very much workable as its mayor, Noel Rosal, relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities.

“Tourists now visit Legazpi not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” she said.

Bicol-wide, DOT data show that arrivals in 2014 was up by 14.85 percent for a total of 3, 724, 073 tourists, 16.63 per cent of 2,970,744 of whom are domestic and 8.35 percent or 753,329 foreigners.

These figures were realized without the Triple C working as a cluster and Ravanilla said “how much more now that it is already in place.”

There are two sub-TDAs under this cluster–the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) to cover the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

For the CCTL, Caramoan, which lies at the northeastern tip of Camarines Sur and separated by Maqueda Channel from the island-province of Catanduanes, covers Caramoan Peninsula where a group of exotic islets serving as a major ecotourism destination sits.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a pearly island in the Pacific that is virtually untouched, unspoiled and unexplored.

It is a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues along its long string of palm-fringed beaches backed by jungle-covered mountains and crowned with jewel-like islets.

For the CTC, Camarines Sur has been a long-time tourist destination with its Camarines Water sports Complex (CWC) and Peñafrancia Festival of Naga City while Camarines Norte is famous for its Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Islands known for its pristine beaches of a long stretch of powdery white sand.