Visitor traffic in the region reached 637,127 in 2006 registering an average growth of 16.38 percent from 2004 to 2006. Foreign tourist arrivals increased remarkably at a rate of 65 percent from 2005 to 2006. On the average, it posted a growth rate of 41.86 percent from 2004 to 2006. Domestic tourists increased by
an average of 14.81 percent from 449,295 in 2004 to 587,823 in 2006. The marked increase in visitor arrivals, particularly coming from the international market can be attributed to the development of new attractions such as the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex and the whaleshark interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon. Generally, the increase in tourist arrivals is accounted to the strong marketing and promotion of the DOT, the LGUs and establishments involved in tourism.
The bulk of tourists were from the domestic market with an average share of 93 percent. Seven percent of the visitors were from the foreign market. Top five countries of origin of these foreign tourists are Japan, USA, Taiwan, Australia and Germany. People from these countries and the ASEAN are emerging as the new major tourists in the Southeast Asia. However, aggressive promotional activities should be improved and sustained to gain greater international exposure.
The share of Bicol region to the total tourist arrivals in the Philippines increased by 5.38 percent, from 3.62 percent in 2004 to 4.01 percent in 2006. In 2004, Bicol ranked 9th and advanced to 7th in 2006. This only showed that Bicol’s unique destinations are becoming attractive and
starting to capture the domestic and international markets.
The adoption of the strategy of super regions in 2006 underscored the importance of grouping regions and provinces by their economic strengths to complement resources and stimulate economic growth. Bicol region is in the Central Philippines super region which is
the tourism hub on account of its unique natural wonders and warm people. With sustainable tourism as the development thrust, the Central Philippines super region will be able to tap the development potentials of the smaller islands and protect these islands’ fragile marine and coastal ecosystem.
The region is rich in both natural and man-made destinations. One of the recently developed destinations that captured the international market is the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex (CWC) located within the provincial capitol of Camarines Sur.
There are four key eco-tourism destinations in the region identified in the key eco-tourism sites of the Philippines. These are: (1) Mayon Volcano in Albay; (2) Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur; (3) Whaleshark “Butanding” Interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon; and (4) Bulusan Lake in Bulusan, Sorsogon. Each key eco-tourism site has a cluster of several tourism destinations, either natural or man-made destinations (Table 1). Potential eco-tourism destinations are: Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate, Caramoan in Camarines Sur and Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon.
Of the four destinations, only whaleshark “butanding” interaction has been developed and promoted, making it famous in the international market. The unique attraction plus the strong political will of the local government unit of Donsol, the support of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the private sector has led to organized whale shark expeditions that transformed this sleepy, remote fishing village into a major eco-tourist destination.
It is said that the local folks owe much of the town’s booming industry to the whalesharks or butandings that feed on the rich, plankton-filled waters of this small coastal town. But soon, this may no longer be the case. Environmentalists warn that butandings are becoming scarce nowadays. A local group that advocates the protection of Donsol’s gentle giants claimed that at least three fully grown butandings were found dead in 2006. This only showed that there is a weak enforcement of environmental laws, such as the Fisheries Code that prohibits the fishing of endangered species and the Eco-tourism Code of Conduct.
The firefly watching in the river of Ogod, Donsol, Sorsogon should be developed as an added attraction to the whaleshark interaction.
Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone is one of the 17 protected areas in Bicol Region. It is endowed with diverse natural resources, which is beneficial to students and other environment enthusiasts in the conduct of research and eco-tourism activities. The site is ideal for camping, trekking and ecological tour. Its steep and rugged terrain is a challenge to adventurers and mountain climbers to conquer this beautiful volcano. There is an on-going Mayon Volcano Natural Park Eco-tourism Project being conducted for an integrated eco-tourism activity in the area.
The Bulusan Lake in Bulusan, Sorsogon is a favorite destination of mountain climbers and nature lovers. Mt. Bulusan remains to be an active volcano, the surrounding forests boast of exotic flora and fauna and the mystical Lake Bulusan is lying 2,084 ft. upon the slopes of the volcano. The Bulusan Development Plan was approved and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Provincial Government of Sorsogon, LGU Bulusan and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was approved transferring the management of the Bulusan Natural Park to LGU Bulusan.
Consocep Mountain Resort is nestled on the shoulders of Mt. Isarog at an elevation of 1,800 feet above sea level. The main feature of the place is its cool mountain air made more refreshing by the presence of two big waterfalls – Tumaguiti and Bulalacao, and four smaller ones, the best known and most popular of which is the Kawa-Kawa Falls. It has been operational since 1990 and has drawn the attention of domestic and foreign visitors, especially during summer.
At present, there are inadequate accommodation facilities in these four key eco-tourism sites particularly in Sorsogon. This could be the reason why Sorsogon ranked 4th or 5th among the six provinces in terms of tourist arrivals for 2004-2006. After interacting with the whalesharks or seeing the Bulusan Lake, the tourist opted to stay in Legazpi City where accommodation facilities are available. It was observed that the homestay program is becoming popular especially in Donsol, Sorsogon. However, this program should be intensified to improve its services.
Intra and inter-regional linkages between these eco-tourism sites should also be established by developing tour packages. Table 1 shows the list of major destinations in the region that can be linked with the four eco-tourism sites.
Tourism-Oriented Establishments (TOEs)
The number of accommodation establishments in the region increased by 5.7 percent from 281 in 2004 to 297 in 2006. These facilities are classified as hotels (standard and economy), inns, pension house, apartelle, dormitory, resort, and hostel. Homestay sites are also included in the list.
Of the 297 TOEs, only 27 were accredited by the DOT, because accreditation is optional. Compliance to the prescribed DOT standard and voluminous documentary requirements to be accomplished by the tourism-oriented establishment could be the reason for non-accreditation. Incentive packages for accreditation are perceived to be unattractive.
Based on the international classification of accommodation facilities (economy, standard, first class and de luxe), only economy and standard facilities with limited bed capacity are available in the region.
There were 278,363 jobs generated from tourism during the period 2004-2006. Employment increased in 2006 to 165,614 from 32,867 in 2005.
Translated into tourist receipts, a total of P307.5 million were Bicol’s contribution to the Philippine economy in CY 2006. Average domestic tourist expenditure was P1,200 contributing a total of P 235 million, while foreign tourist expenditure is estimated at $90 for an average of three days stay in the region, contributing a total of P72.5 million during the year.
Trainings and seminars for the tourism stakeholders are available to provide quality services and upgrade industry skills in the operation of tourism establishments. These include: tour guiding techniques, tourism awareness seminar, strategic planning workshop, destination packaging and validation, tourist reception, waitering and bartending, tourist handling, public safety, culinary tour workshop and basic inn keeping procedures for the homestay program, etc.
In cooperation with the regional command, tour guiding techniques for TOPCOPs and mabuhay hosts for TOPCOPs are promoted to ensure peace and order in the locality and safety of the visitors in the tourist areas. The STOP or Security of Tourists Operational Program that
was launched in 2006 aims to enhance disaster management and security capabilities among tourism stakeholders. It is a joint undertaking of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) and the DOT to intensify vigilance of the community by conducting lectures, orientations, workshops and visual presentations.
However, more trainings and enhancement programs especially for tricycle drivers in the urban areas and lifeguard courses are needed for a quality and tourist-friendly services.
Sustainable Marketing and Promotion
Showcasing the best of unique Bicolandia is a formidable challenge to all the stakeholders, with the growing tourism market as manifested by the increased tourist arrivals in 2006. Intensive marketing and promotion activities were conducted through tri-media, showcasing the region’s best attractions, products and services. Major promotional activities were conducted and participated by the DOT in cooperation with other government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations and private sector organizations. These are: 25th ASEAN Tourism Forum, VIZ-MIN Travel and Lifestyle Expo 2005 and 2006, 4th, 5th and 6th Bicol Tourism Trade and Investment Mission to USA, 1st Mindanao Travel and Tour Expo, Bicol Food Festival, Participation to the Philippine Travel Mart, Mayon Marathon, Media Invitational Tours and others. Gayon Bicol Fiesta III and IV were conducted in Naga City in September 2005 and 2006, which coincided with the annual Peñafrancia Festival. This innovation of the DOT to bring the Gayon Bicol to the region has gained wide support from Bicolanos here and abroad.
On the average, 20 major festivals are being conducted in the region every year showcasing the best arts, crafts, music and dances that instill the culture of tourism in the community. Unique products such as ethnic food, handicrafts and other souvenir items are also displayed. Leading networks in the country are invited for the media coverage during these major festivals.
Tourism information services are likewise provided in the region, through the production of tourism collaterals and the presence of DOT information counters and tourism websites. At present, there are four visitor centers in the region: Legazpi Airport, Donsol, CWC and Naga City . There are also two official websites of the DOT, the www.wowbicol.com and thewww.visitmyphilippines.com. It features the different tourist attractions, monthly activities and festivals throughout the region. But it should also include information on the tourist “must do's and dont's” for the protection of the environment.
Infrastructure Support Facilities
Transport. The region is easily accessible by land, air and sea transportation facilities. It maintains and operates seven functional airports, with Legazpi City as the only trunkline airport which has landing facilities and can accommodate aircrafts like Boeing 737 jets.
By sea, the region can be accessed via Legazpi City Port, which is considered as the base port. There is also the Tabaco City Port classified as an international port and other ports that have roll-on-roll-off ramp facilities for traveling convenience. The existing port facilities and amenities need improvement for a higher level of service.
Traveling by land is most convenient as bus services can be availed of either during the day or nighttime travel. Most of the tourism-oriented establishments (TOEs) along Manila-Bicol highway are not DOT-standard TOEs that should provide a convenient and safe travel to the region.
While there is a good inter and intra-provincial road system, this has not been complemented by improvement in access roads leading to tourist spots/destinations. This was due to low budgetary support of the local and national governments. There is also lack of awareness in some LGUs on the economic benefits of the tourism industry, thus, low priority is given to the improvement/off-site development of tourist destinations.
With Bicol in the Central Philippines, intra-regional and extra–regional travel will be made faster and more comfortable with efficient infrastructure and transport facilities that will be built. Seven major transportation projects are lined up for the region.These are: (1) New Legazpi Airport;(2) Aroroy (Masbate) Port; (3) Esperanza (Masbate) Port; (4) Boca Engaño (Masbate); (5) Pantao (Albay) Port; (6) PNR South Rail (Lucena-Bicol); and (7) Access Roads to RORO Ports (Eastern Nautical Highway). See Chapters 18-20 for land, water and air transport, respectively, for details.
Communication. National and international direct dial services, mobile telephone network facilities, network system for e-mail and internet services, express postal delivery and courier services are readily available in the region. Some tourist destinations in the urban areas are served by communication facilities such as the wired and wireless telephone, cable TV and internet service. Mobile telephone network facilities are available in all tourist destinations. See Chapter 21: Communications for the details.
The overall objective of the sector is to put Bicol in the world tourism map. The expected outcomes are:
Increased tourist arrivals;
Employment generation; and
Increased income from domestic and foreign tourists expenditure.
For the region to be globally competitive, small-scale tourism investments should be prioritized in the short-term, followed by large-scale investments in the long-term. The national government should provide funds to finance tourism facilities and support infrastructure. The local government units should prioritize off-site developments that are basic to the tourism industry and ensure that the community is tourism-ready. Maintaining peace and order in major tourist destinations is also imperative to attract both domestic and foreign tourists.
Large-scale investments such as the development of new attractions of international standard, new hotels, resorts and other tourism-oriented establishments are private sector-led. The government should create a favorable investment climate for the private investors to come in.
To attain its objective, the following are the strategies:
Sustainable Development of Key and Potential Ecotourism Destinations. The LGUs shall undertake the development of key eco-tourism destinations in the region, which shall be in accordance with the National Eco-tourism Strategy Program. It will provide an integrated and coordinated mechanism for eco-tourism in the Philippines. This will include product development, marketing and promotion, education and advocacy, support program and monitoring and evaluation.
Tourism Destination Rehabilitation/Development.
Improvement of existing major tourist destinations and development of priority tourism areas/assets in the regional and/or provincial tourism core. This will also include development of new destinations/attractions in the southeastern part of the region to complement the tourism activities of the Central Philippines Super Regions.
Tourism Support Facilities Development.Provision of necessary infrastructure and service facilities that will improve access to eco-tourism sites and other major tourist destinations in the region by the national and local governments.
Tourism Marketing and Promotion. Aggressive marketing and promotions here and abroad through print and broadcast media. This will include the following: (1) rehabilitation and improvement of existing visitor and information centers, and the construction of new information counters in strategic locations; (2) development of tourism collaterals and tour packages that will link the key eco-tourism sites and other destinations in the region with the Central Philippines, other regions of the country, and the world; (3) provision of support to the LGUs and the private sectors for the conduct of festivals in the region; and (4) conduct/participation to tourism and trade fairs, exhibits, travel expo, travel mart, investment missions, etc.
Institutional Development. Conduct of trainings/seminars for the DOT and other concerned regulatory agencies, local government units, service providers, tourism frontliners and the community for better accommodation of tourists in the area. This will also include the passage of tourism-friendly ordinances and the delivery of support services such as security and safety, peace and order, signages and billboards, sanitation and beautification.
Major Programs and Projects
Development of Key and Potential Eco-tourism Destinations. This aims to provide an integrated and coordinated mechanism for eco-tourism development in the Philippines. The following destinations will be developed:
Mayon Volcano Natural Park in Lidong, Sto. Domingo
Mt. Isarog/Consocep in Ocampo and Tigaon, Cam. Sur
Caramoan Tourism Development Project in Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Bulusan Nature Trek and Mountain Resort in Bulusan, Sorsogon
Manta Bowl Development in San Jacinto, Masbate
Tourism Destination Rehabilitation/Development. The objective of the project is to improve existing major tourist destinations and the development of priority tourism areas/assets in the regional and/or provincial tourism core. The
following are the major projects:
Cagsawa Park Rehabilitation in Daraga, Albay
Mayon View Park Development at the Ligñon Hill, Legazpi City
Sun West Wharf Development Project, Legazpi City
Capitol Complex Tourism Development Project, Pili, Camarines Sur
Lake Buhi Rehabilitation and Development Project, Buhi, Camarines Sur
Culture and Arts Development in Ligao City
Construction of City Public Library cum Museum in Ligao City
Rehabilitation/Improvement of Luyang Cave, San Andres, Catanduanes
Improvement of Bagasbas Beach and Promenade Boulevard, Daet, Camarines Norte
Tourism Support Facilities Development.
The objective of the project is to provide necessary infrastructure and service facilities that will improve access to eco-tourism sites and other major tourist destinations in the region by the national and local governments.
Access Roads in Camarines Sur
Beautification of Sangay-Tiwi Highway in Sangay, Camarines Sur
Caramoan Airstrip (FS preparation)
Development/Construction of Facilities/ Trails/Access Leading to Tourist Spots in Ligao City
Tourism Marketing and Promotion. This will involve aggressive marketing and promotional activities here and abroad through print and broadcast media.
Establishment of information and photo display booths in Legazpi City, Ligao City, Iriga City, Naga City, Masbate City Sorsogon City, Daet and Virac
Production and dissemination of tourism collaterals
Participation in national and international travel shows
Maintenance of websites by Legazpi City
Tourism promotion and marketing by the Province of Camarines Sur
Establishment/Operation of Investment Promotion & Development Center in Ligao City
Institutional Development/Capability Building. This will include the conduct of trainings and seminars for the DOT and other concerned regulatory agencies, LGUs, service providers, tourism frontliners and the community for better
accommodation of tourists in the area.
Tourism Awareness Project