The domestic airport in Legazpi receives a boost from the provincial government of Albay with the allotment of P11 million for upgrading geared towards making the city a prospective gateway for chartered flights of foreign tourists.
This was confirmed as the provincial legislature unanimously approved last week the allocation requested by Gov. Joey Salceda.
The proposed upgrade is part of requirements in making the province a new gateway of foreign travellers via chartered flights directly coming from major markets like China, Korea and Russia.
In is also in preparation for the first Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit hosted by the province in December and the Green Climate Fund in April, in 2014.
Apart from the delegates coming to these international conferences, Salceda said, about a dozen of chartered flights carrying tourists from China have also been arranged and would start arriving in next year as soon as the upgrade and other requirements are met.
Part of the upgrade, Salceda said here on Saturday, is the setting up of Customs, Immigration and Quarantine-Health and Quarantine Agriculture to meet the requirements standard of international flights.
“Ahead of the opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) now ongoing construction in Daraga town, we are making use of the existing Legazpi domestic airport for chartered flights that would fly in foreign visitors who are making our province a new destination,” the governor said.
The province, he said, is taking advantage of the foreign market trend showing that international tourists do not tend to repeat a local destination as they follow a cycle leading them from one place to another.
This trend, according to Salceda, creates a demand for a new Philippine destination other than Cebu, Boracay, Bohol and Laoag where there are existing flights from and to various cities outside of the country, particularly China.
Having Albay as a new direct destination for the Chinese market, for example, means getting them to start a cycle from January to March of each year wherein they would arrive via chartered flights Sunday and leave Thursday, Salceda said.
With this, he said, the province would be expecting in terms of arrivals 200 persons per flight from China every five days for three months or 3,600 actual bodies who would be staying five nights or 18,000 guest nights per year.
Based on reports of international tourism organizations, Chinese tourists spend US$ 300 per night.
“With this as an example, a conservative estimate of US$ 275 per Chinese guest per night would be equivalent to about P213 million in tourism receipts that Albay will get starting from the moment they arrive at the airport and as they go along with city tours, enter the gate of Cagsawa Ruins, rent ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), eat in restaurants, get services from local providers and occupy hotel rooms,” Salceda said.
These are all in line with his policy to achieve inclusive growth for the province through tourism that will have direct impact on the community, the governor added.
“Tourism will definitely take a crucial role in the province’s and in Bicol region’s pursuit for inclusive and horizontal growth that will benefit not only big investors such as hotel and resort owners and operators but also the people in the countryside where most of tourist destinations are located by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures,” he stressed.
Other services and small-scale businesses such as transport, souvenir shops, handicrafts and the like are created as tourism activities intensify in an area, while large-scale tourism stakeholders are needed to expand to include employment for common people such as housekeeping and food services, Salceda added.
According to Department of Tourism (DOT) Bicol regional director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, a group of local tour operators is working closely with this chartered flight tourism program.
Arrangements, she said, have already reached a 100-percent positive outcome insofar as the Chinese market is concerned.
Chinese travelers, however, are impulsive on the visa process that is why their biggest drawers are Jeju Island and Bali, Indonesia, that do not require entry visas, she said.
Albay, Salceda said, is arranging ways to provide ease and convenience so that entry requirements for this market are put in place as smooth as possible so that Chinese tourists would be able to enjoy the province as an alternative “complete” destination.
“We will be using the Laoag model as a guide in the processing of tourist group visa wherein tour operators will request for a recommendation letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs or its foreign post that a group of tourists will be visiting the province and this will serve as TGV for Chinese visitors,” he said.
Besides, Salceda said, there is already an agreement among countries regarding the laxity of issuing visas and on the problem with the Chinese market, with AJAX Rule, they are given 59 days upon landing in the Philippines”.
Multiple entry visa upon arrival (MEVUA) or Note Verbale for Chinese and Indian visitors can be requested from the DFA foreign post at least one week prior to travel to the Philippines and they can stay for 59 days. Japanese and Russian visitors can stay for 30 days and are not required to apply for entry visa.
For the Korean market, on the other hand, that is more on honeymooners and golfing travelers, the tour operators group is now working on the actual details such as visa needs and obtaining positive responses from the market.
On the Russian market, Vladivostok, in the Russian fareast, has direct flights to Cebu and Kalibo but Russians are getting tired of these places, reason why they are seeking new destinations, according to Salceda, adding that a Russian guest spend US$ 1,000 per night on incidental expenses exclusive of accommodation costs.
Under this new tourism project, the governor said, there would be chartered flights for the Russian market from November to March and Misibis Bay Resort will be allocating a minimum of 20 rooms for them every nine days which means 180 room nights per cycle.
Misibis is a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of a beach along the southern tip of Cagraray island in Bacacay, Albay which is considered as the luxury island playground in the Philippines.
From these three travel markets alone, Albay’s estimated arrivals are 10,000 in the first year, probably 2014, when all requirements are satisfied. (PNA)