Visitors to Bicol are in for a pleasant surprise as they discover that paradise will be thrice the fun with the formation of the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Alliance (Almasor) which harnesses the tourism potentials of the three provinces.
Created by the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC), the Almasorta is an integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the Bicolandia by clustering the said provinces into a tourism sub-region.
RDC Chair and Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who spearheaded the formation of the Almasor, said that the alliance is a pioneering concept in tourism promotion to provide visitors more destination options.
The grouping complements the Catanduanes-Camarines Sur-Camarines Norte Tourism Link (CCTL), another Bicol regional cluster which has formed earlier.
The Department of Tourism-Region V and Albay provincial government will showcase Almasor in the Internationale Tourismus-Börse in Berlin, Germany, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, in its bid to lure 650,000 foreign tourist arrivals annually within five years.
Salceda said the alliance was initiated to ensure a stronger and more cohesive promotional campaign among the three provinces, which all possess inherent world-class tourism potentials.
Albay is known for Bicol’s tourism icon—the legendary Mayon Volcano, acclaimed as the world’s most perfect cone. Regarded as the gateway to the Bicolandia, it takes pride in the posh Misibis Bay Resort, a small luxury hotel in Bacacay, and the five-star The Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City.
Luzon’s southernmost province and jump-off to the Visayas, Sorsogon is noted for the butanding or whale shark, the world’s biggest fish found in Donsol town. Its other major attractions are the bucolic Bulusan National Park which hosts a placid lake and a thickly-vegetated volcano, the spring resort town of Irosin and the Juag Lagoon mariculture park sought for its fish interaction activities.
Dubbed as the Philippines’ cowboy country, Masbate hogged global prominence for its Manta Bowl in Ticao Island, the habitat of a huge concentration of exotic manta rays. The rugged province is home to pristine secluded expanses of white sand beaches and crystalline waters.
Salceda revealed that tour packages are being developed to provide guests diverse experiences and more options with the introduction of new tourist attractions.
The RDC chair noted that since the creation of Almasor in March 2012, there have been significant benefits to the three provinces, especially on tourist arrivals and infrastructure.
The national government is infusing P 900 million for road projects in Masbate, P 1.25 billion in Sorsogon and P 1.56 billion in Albay. In addition, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. earlier approved a P1.4-billion tourism support infrastructure package for Albay.
The flagship project in the pipeline is the P3.6-billion Southern Luzon International Airport in Daraga slated to be finished in 2014. The all-weather airport, which will be the region’s main entry point, is expected to further boost tourist arrivals.
Bicol posted about 2.9 million domestic and 772,886 foreign tourist arrivals or a total of 3.7 million tourists last year, an increase of eight percent over the previous year.
Other priority projects are the modernization of Philippine National Railways railroad tracks up to Legazpi City, the P250-million Mayon International Convention Center, and the P278-million Albay Sports Center.
He said that for this year, Albay expects to sustain, if not surpass, the 2012 tourist arrivals due to the reintroduction of the province in the Berlin ITB, closer collaboration with key tourism stakeholders, and the synergistic positioning of Almasor.
Albay will be featured as a highlight destination at the Philippine Pavilion in the ITB-Berlin, which is visited by some 170,000 visitors and 11,000 firms from 180 countries.
“With 49 percent arrival growth in 2012, Albay is the fastest-growing tourism destination—almost doubling in domestic tourism and 23 percent in foreign tourism. Moreso, out of the 251,000 incremental tourists, it had a market share of 67 percent, or 2 out of every 3 new tourists going to Albay in 2012,” the governor concluded.