Aug 31, 2011


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The man responsible for the spectacular turnaround of Philippine tourism believes Cagayan de Oro and nearby destinations have the potential to become the country’s top tourism destinations with the scheduled commissioning of the Laguindingan Airport in 2012 as an international entry point as now envisioned by the Department of Transportation and Communications. (DOTC).

Kumbira 2009 opening rites Kumbira 2009 pressc conference
With Mayor Tinnex Jaraula and Cohara prexy
Nelia Lee at the Kumbira 2009 opening rites.
With DOT-X RD Butch Chan at the Kumbira 2009
pressc conference.

“Our fastest growing sector is adventure sports and eco-tourism,” said Sec. Joseph Ace Durano during a press conference following the 13th Kumbira Culinary Show and Live Competitions at the Atrium, Limketkai Center, Cagayan de Oro Thursday, August 13th. “I think there’s no region in the country today which can match Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao in these niche markets.”

After rising 1.5 percent to hit a record 3.14 million tourist arrivals in 2008, the country’s tourism industry grew 10.33 percent to 1.3 million during the first quarter. Growth has been even faster for the first half of the year, with tourist arrivals in the country’s top 16 tourism destination topping 16.5 percent to almost four million for the first semester of 2009 alone, breaking all previous arrival records. This, at a time when the A(H1N1) pandemic and global economic slowdown have adversely affected the global travel industry. In fact, the tourism department earlier cautioned the global economic crisis would likely lead to a contraction in overseas tourism worldwide and forecast tourist arrivals in the Philippines this year would only range from zero to 1.9 percent, “depending on the recovery of key source markets”.

K Condominium inauguration Taking a brief tour of Kumbira 2009
With Mayor Jaraula, Kag. Alden Bacal and
I.F. Group Chairman Suk Koo Ko at the
K Condominium inauguration.
Taking a brief tour of Kumbira 2009 with Cohara
president Nelia Lee.

DOT records show neither Cagayan de Oro nor any of its satellite destinations in Region 10 are included in the top 16 tourist destinations for the first semester of 2009, which includes Camarines Sur, Cebu, Boracay, Baguio, Davao, Puerto Galera, Bohol, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Ilocos Norte, Masbate, Camarines Norte, Puerto Princesa, Legaspi, Catanduanes, and Sorsogon.

“When I started as DOT secretary, tourism in the Philippines could not be properly described as Philippine tourism,” Durano said. “Entry points for foreign tourists were only through Metro Manila and Cebu. But we are an archipelagic country with destinations north and south, east and west.”

Durano said one of the best way to push destinations was to increase access, thus the opening of other destinations to charter flights from from Shanghai, Nanning, Guangzhou and Kunming in China, and Taipei and Kaohsiung from Taiwan. Instead of waiting for further investments to improve the country’s tourism facilities, the DOT focused on attracting tourists from destinations three to six hours from the Philippines.

“Your region can focus on attracting tourists from ASEAN, China, Korea, Australia which are among the fastest growing tourism markets in the world today,” Durano noted. The Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area should be an especially favorable market with the recent appointment of Region 10 Tourism Director Catalino Chan III as BIMP-Eaga sub-country coordinator for tourism, he added.

Durano attributed the fare war between domestic carriers and Malacañang’s “Holiday Economics” of long weekends also encouraged local tourists to travel, substantially increasing domestic tourism by 20 percent for the second quarter of 2009. The “zero-air fares” and increased number of domestic flights have also encouraged foreign travelers to connect to other destinations in the country by eliminating overnight stays at their initial destinations and increasing foreign traffic by six percent overall despite a six percent drop in arrivals from East Asia and the Pacific.

The increased demand encouraged more entrepreneurs to create new products and experiences for visitors, Durano noted. Tourism accounted for 6.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008.

Although Region 10 is not part of the Central Philippines “Tourism Super Region” envisioned to be the premier tourist destination, one of its component provinces, Camiguin, is included. Cagayan de Oro is also smack in the middle of another Super Region, the CyberCorridor, a 600-mile ICT channel running from Baguio City in the North to Zamboanga down south of the archipelago. With access to the CyberCorridor’s $10 Billion high-bandwidth optic fiber back-bone and digital network, Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan have been attracting domestic and foreign cyberservice providers such as business process outsourcing (BPO), contact centers, medical and legal transcription, software development, e-learning, e-entertainment and gaming and other back office operations.

Durano said the Laguindingan Airport would be a key component of the region’s drive to attract foreign and domestic tourists. Doroteo A. Reyes II, DOTC Undersecretary for civil aviation, earlier said DOTC is looking at Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan) and four other domestic airports to pick up the slack for the anticipated growth in air passenger traffic, especially from abroad.

“Ang problema lang natin, maski matapos ang airport na ito in 2011, the demand for exchanges of passengers will be very great,” Reyes noted following a site inspection of the Laguindingan Airport Development Project (LADP) July 3. “The next problem is tourism that’s why right now, the DOTC is in tandem with the Department of Tourism (DOT) to bring about more passengers to this airport.”

Comparative data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) show air passenger traffic through the Cagayan de Oro (Lumbia) Airport growing by a hefty 66% from 544, 936 in 2004 to 902,671 in 2008 despite the same approximate number of flights. This was attributed to the fielding of the Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air which enabled the competing carriers to move more passengers with lesser flights.

For the first quarter of 2009, air passenger traffic at Lumbia increased 32,901 or by 16% over the same period in 2008 to 242,731. The number of flights also increased 188 (+10%) after both PAL and CEB increased flight frequencies to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic.

Budget constraints have limited the first phase of the LADP to a 2.1 kilometer runway, though Reyes assured this can accommodate the mid-ranged wide body airliners like the Airbus 320 and A319 which play a key role in Durano’s strategy.

“Once we expand this runway to 2.5 or 3 kilometers we can already accommodate larger aircraft like the Boeing 747 due to the excellent approach from both east and west which will enable big aircraft to maximize the runway,” Reyes added.

The Php7.853-billion LADP can handle all-weather and night landing operations with its Instrument Landing System (ILS), VOR/DME, Meteorological Observing System, Precision Approach Lighting System and Precision Approach Path Indicators. Its apron can handle two wide body and three light aircraft at any one time and two air bridges can whisk arriving commercial passengers straight to the terminal building without exposing them to the weather. The terminal building has an annual capacity of 1.2 million passengers while its parking area can accommodate 240 vehicles.

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