Foreign investors eye Bicol Hotel

Legaspi City (April 19, 2007) – A Singaporean group has expressed interest in investing in Legaspi City for the reopening and expansion of the Mayon International Hotel, amid the rise in visitor arrivals in Bicol region.

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a beautiful view of mount mayon

Maria Ong Ravanilla, the regional director of the Department of Tourism in Bicol, said the Singaporean investors informed her last week of their plan to reopen the Mayon International Hotel under a new brand name.

"They were planning to carry the Shangri La brand in Bicol," she said.

A staff of the 90-room hotel in Barangay Taysan, Legaspi City said the facility has been closed since 2002, but confirmed that investors were planning to reopen it this year once renovation and expansion works are completed.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said Bicol is now rising as a major tourism destination, pending the completion of the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay.

"The procurement of land for the airport has been completed, and the feasibility study is ongoing. We hope to finish the project by 2010," said Durano, who is also in charge of overseeing the various ports, airports and other infrastructure projects in Central Philippines, which includes Bicol region, Visayas, Palawan and some parts of northern Mindanao.

Visitor arrivals in the six provinces of Bicol grew 27 percent to 635,000 in 2006 from 501,000 in 2005, owing largely to the popularity of new destinations such as the whale shark (butanding) interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon and the Camsur water sports complex in Camarines Sur province.

Ravanilla said Europeans particularly Germans have been attracted to different spots in Bicol, which is becoming one of the top eco-tourism destinations in the country.

mount mayon

 She said Legaspi City is benefitting from the increase in the number of visitors trooping to Donsol, Sorsogon where there are not enough accommodation facilities.

Last year, Donsol drew more than 11,000 tourists, of whom 65 percent were foreign guests looking for a unique travel experience. Apart from whale shark interaction, Donsol offers a cruise of the Ogod River where thousands of fireflies define the shape of mangrove trees at night.

Camsur, which opened only in April 2006, is the country's fastest rising destination for water activities. "It offers the best cable ski site in Asia," Ravanilla said.

Durano said he expects the people Bicol of benefit from the growing tourism industry. "This region is ready for international tourism," he said.

"We want to promote not just Donsol, but the entire Bicol region," he added.

Bicol groups the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes. Roderick T. dela Cruz

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