By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY — The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said tourist arrivals in Albay have posted a remarkable surge by 109 percent during the third quarter of this year, making the province the third fastest growing tourist hub in the country.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda quoting on a DOT report, said tourist arrivals in Albay from July to September totaled 62, 280, where 27,290 were foreign tourists and 34,990 were composed of domestic tourists that made the province the “third fastest growing tourist destination” of the Philippines as of date.
Salceda said, “Albay is finally actualizing its tourism potential both for hosting iconic endowments and for its role as gateway to Bicol’s emerging tourist destinations with tourist arrivals leaping to record high of +109% during the last three months. “
Tourism Secretary Albert A. Lim, during a recent visit here, referred to Albay as the third fastest growing tourist destination in the country second only to Cebu and Boracay with new and diversified tourism come-ons.
Such standing, according to Lim, necessitated recommending the speedy completion of Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA), to make Bicol a top tourist destination as well as support DOT’s target of doubling the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country.
Earlier reports, however, claimed that Camarines Sur was ahead of Cebu in terms of tourist arrivals as of last reporting period.
Lim at a tourist stakeholders’ forum said “I will strongly recommend SLIA to Department of Transportation and Communication as one of the top priority airports in the country.”
Also a recent favorite for tourists – among others – is the province of Sorsogon because of Mt. Bulusan’s restive character, according to Gov. Salceda. Mount Bulusan spewed ash about three weeks ago, but volcanologists assured there’s no threat of an explosive eruption.
“There is something truly amazing – and disturbing – in the way danger attracts humans. We saw similar display of predisposition for danger in the Mayon eruption last year. In 2009, Mayon eruption induced arrivals in the month of December, Salceda said.
He added that this gave rise to a perverse mode of tourist movement- disaster tourism. Thus, disaster response strategy had to be significantly reconfigured to secure our zero casualty goal since a dead tourist is also a violation of zero casualty.
But he said recent developments, such as the Bulusan volcanic seismic activities, were a bit different; Albay is getting tourists without incurring the risks clearly establishing the geostrategic position of Legazpi as the gateway to Bicol destinations.
He said Albay would be more comfortable with tourists coming for Donsol encounters than for the anticipated Bulusan eruption.
Also boosting tourist arrivals in Albay is the six times a day flight of three big airlines via the Legazpi City Domestic airport; Air companies such as PAL, Cebu Pacific, and most recently Air Philippines, help establish Albay’s role as the gateway to Bicol, Salceda added.