Tourism investments surge in the Philippines

New tourism projects endorsed by the Department of Tourism to the Board of Investments (BoI) soared 827 percent year-on-year in 2005, as local and foreign investors pledged more money for the development of hotels, resorts, tourism estates and other related establishments.

Data from the DoT's Office of Tourism Standard showed that the department endorsed P11.938 billion worth of new projects in 2005, up from only P1.288 billion in 2004.

The 35 new projects are expected to create 1,981 additional hotel rooms and 2,653 seats in the land transportation sector. By categories, the projects include 12 hotels, five resorts, 15 land transportation projects, one apartel, one tourism estate/ecozone and one tourism-related establishment.

About P5.086 billion worth of these projects are in Metro Manila; P2.795 billion in Central Visayas or Cebu area; P2.768 billion in Southern Tagalog; P484 million in Cordillera or Baguio area; P375 million in Bicol; P254 million in Western Visayas; and P25 million in Central Mindanao.

DoT Secretary Joseph Durano said with increased investments in tourism and transportation, the country can accommodate more foreign visitors, which are estimated to reach three million this year.

"Our projection for the number of tourist arrivals is based on our present capacity," he said. "As long as we have the capacity, we can create the demand."

Donald Balanhi, who compiles the tourism investment data, attributed the increase in tourism investments in 2005 to the implementation of Executive Order No. 313, which reduced the import duties on capital equipment, spare parts and accessories imported by companies accredited by the BoI.

Balanhi said Republic Act 7916, or the law that amended the Special Economic Zone Act, also encouraged more investments in tourism last year.

Of the 35 projects endorsed by the DoT in 2005, the largest was the P3.984 billion Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila located along Pedro Gil Street in Malate. The 32-story tower, with an impressive nine-story podium, began commercial operation in December 2005.

Other large projects include the P1.637 billion Hilton Cebu Resort and Towers in Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu City; the P1.348 billion Eastbay Resorts Inc. at East Ridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal; the P1.008 billion Manila Ocean Park at Rizal Park, Manila; and the P1 billion modernization of the Island Cove Resort and Leisure Park in Kawit, Cavite.

The Hilton Hotel started operation in September 2005 while the Eastbay Resorts opened in March of the same year.

Manila Ocean Park will begin construction in January this year and is seen operational by February 2008 while the modernization of Island Cove is expected to be completed by April 2006.

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