LEGAZPI CITY – This prime Bicol metropolis recognized as Bicol’s travel industry center would be an inch closer to hitting the one-million tourist arrivals mark this year, according to the Department of Tourism.
“I am optimistic that the city is going to realize 900,000 arrivals by the end of this year, a sensational prelude to achieving its one-million target by 2016, DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla told the Philippine News Agency during Thursday’s opening here of the week-long Ibalong Festival led by City Mayor Noel Rosal.
The optimism is based on latest data that listed around 450,000 arrivals as of the first half of this year and when the trend established by massive local tourism promotions and industry development that the city government and the DOT have been initiating is maintained up to year-end – “bingo, the city hits the .9-million mark,” she said.
These continuing initiatives have been showing impressive results that showed off highly noticeable arrival figures starting in 2013 when the city hit the half-million target by way of surpassing by a whopping 32.27 percent its previous year’s number of arrivals.
As recorded by the DOT regional office based here, total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579, 470, which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.
Last year, the figure rose to around 700,000 or 40 percent over 2013’s and led the city government to improve it to 900,000 this year and to one million next year.
Ravanilla said the 2015 goal is almost achieved and the 2016 goal is very much workable as its mayor, in the person of 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.
The ongoing Ibalong Festival alone is chalking up an impressive number of arrivals starting with its kick-off event last Aug. 9, the 2nd Mayon Triathlon that drew 300 local and international triathletes and hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists who are followers of the prestigious sporting event.
The festival is a local tourism product which, years back, has given the city its “City of Fun and Adventure” caption now popular within the international travel industry world.
It is an annual non-religious fiesta, now on its 24th year, depicting here Bicol’s early beginnings based on the Ibalong Epic written by the late Prof. Merito Espinas that tells of mythical super heroes, villains, monsters and wild animals in the ancient times.
Launched in 1992, the celebration – that relives the epic featuring the extraordinary feats of strength, courage and heroism of these ancient heroes – has since then lived to become the longest running tourism promotion-related festival in the Bicol Region that expresses warmth and goodwill to all people and encourages visitors and tourists to celebrate with the Legazpeños.
The arrivals for this festivity include those who have been traditionally coming in to participate in the merrymakings, witness the exciting events embedded in it, compete in some national championship sports events and enjoy the fun and adventure it offers.
Thursday’s formal opening was highlighted by a ceremony at the monuments of the Ibalong Epic’s mythical heroes at the city downtown and the Carnival Parade from the City Hall complex to Legazpi Boulevard, featuring a mardi gras joined by various contingents that danced in colorful ethnic costumes. dazzling thousands of spectators lined along the five-kilometer parade route.
The day also marked the opening of the 3rd Ibalong National Women’s Beach Volleyball competition with 10 teams from famous colleges and universities, mostly based in Metro Manila, participating.
The games, which will run for three days, are staged on a jet-black sand court at the Legazpi Boulevard along the scenic Albay Gulf.
Other sporting events included in this year’s celebration are the National Dragon Boat Race, the National Cross Country Mountain Bike Race, the Ibalong Festival Invitational Golf Tournament at the Doña Pepita Golf Course near the foot of Mt. Mayon, the 1st Ibalong Festival Pigeon Race and the Football Clinic at the Bicol University ball ground hosted by James and Phil Younghusband.
Other tourism-related activities taking place in the city at the remaining of this year are five more conventions, meetings and other grand gatherings expected to bring in thousands more of tourists and visitors from different parts of the world.
These gatherings include 7th National Tripartite Conference for Cooperative Development on Sept. 9-11; Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum on Sept. 14-15; 1st International Convention on Children and Family on Oct. 15-17; the National Information and Communication Technology Summit 2015 on Oct. 21-23 ;and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) –Adventure and Travel Conference on Nov. 14-15.
These grand occasions are part of this year’s 51 international and national gatherings in the city, which works on becoming one of the convention capitals of the country as part of its massive tourism industry development program.
Listed as number 14 in the country’s most visited tourism destinations in the country two years ago, the city, officially identified as one of the three most livable cities of the country, is also vying for a slot in the five top tourist favorites at least for the Luzon area this year.
“We have all the attributes of a top tourism destination and convention capital – from marvelous tourism sites and world-class facilities to stable peace and order situation, clean air quality, pollution-free coastal water and livable communities,” City Mayor Noel Rosal said.