Tourists now flocking to this province for the Cobra Ironman 70.3 competition slated Aug. 23 won’t find the stay complete without setting foot at the Gota Village Resort nestled in a serene coastal ecotourism complex here.
“It is of no doubt, had become a leading destination for tourists coming from France and other European countries after it was adjudged ecotourism destination of the year and included among the 14 best tourism destinations in the world by Top Resa 2008 in Paris,” Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte said here Thursday.
All the about 100 close cottages and villas at the resort have been booked for occupancy since two weeks ago, the governor said.
The Top Resa 2008, now on its 30th year and held for the first time in Paris, was attended among others by travel professionals such as delegates from travel agencies, corporate travel managers and members of the media.
It was the biggest travel and trade show and tourism forum in France with strong influence all over Europe.
Gota Village Resort which is operated by the provincial government of Camarines Sur was among the major presentations of the Philippines’ largest delegation to the event in the past three years, headed by Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.
Following that event, Gota Village Resort earned for the Philippines the accolade as “Ecotourism Destination of the Year” in the 2009 edition of Nature, one of France’s biggest travel fairs.
It is nice to note that because of Gota, the Philippines has been increasingly catching the eye and interest of the European tourism market for being the venue for two consecutive years of the ”Koh Lanta,” the French franchise of the reality show serial Survivor, now being aired by Europe’s major broadcast channel TF1 to an audience of over 12 million worldwide, Villafuerte said.
The Koh Lanta was filmed in Palawan last year and at the exotic Matukad islet just offshore of Caramoan Peninsula’s Gota Village Resort where the contestants and a production crew of over 60 stayed for the duration of the shoot earlier this year.
“Even with the prevailing economic crunch, tourism arrivals from France and other European countries who prefer to stay at cozy and exotic hideaways rather than posh hotels, stay longer and spend more have significantly grown since last year and the Philippines, particularly Camarines Sur which has a wealth of such attractions. It has been among the favorite destinations,” he added.
“Camarines Sur is now definitely in a prominent spot of the tourism map of the world and our being adjudged as the most visited province during the first quarter of this year eclipsing all the other top destinations in the country attests to that,” Villafuerte said.
A report of the DOT said the province posted a whopping 902,202 tourists arrivals during the first six months of this year.
The figure earned for the province the distinction as the most-favored tourism destination in the Philippines, eclipsing 16 other fabulous spots including former top rankers Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Bohol, Boracay and Puerto Galera, the DOT report said.
Tourist arrivals in the country during the first semester reached close to 4 million, a 16.5-percent increase compared with last year’s figure, despite the global economic crunch, the A(H1N1) virus scare and reduction of some six percent in the volume of inbound travel to the Pacific area, the DOT report said.
Camarines Sur accounted for about 25 percent of total tourist arrivals in the country’s key destinations, posting a robust growth in both foreign and domestic visitors by 260 percent, largely credited to Villafuerte’s judicious and timely investments in tourism development, according to the DOT.
The success of these initiatives serves as a model for other local government units (LGUs) to harness their tourism potentials and optimize local resources to create more economic activities, the DOT said.
“The French find our natural diversity an exotic adventure opportunities and unique Latin-Asian culture mix exciting and enthralling,” Villafuerte explained.
Added to the recent recognition of Top Resa and Nature, the international popularity of the province is also attributed to the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC), another special tourism project of Villafuerte considered one of the best cable wakeboard parks in the world.
It is the venue of the Cobra Ironman Philippines 70.3, an international triathlon competition to be participated in by around 500 topnotch triathletes from around the world, Villafuerte said.
Among them are Ironman Hawaii world champion Chris McCormack; European 2006 champion and eight-time New Zealand champion Cameron Brown; Lisa Bentley, the 11-time Ironman champion at the Hawaii World Championship; Tim Marr, another Hawaii world champion; two-time silver medalist in the ITU Duathlon World Championship Lucy Smith; and Bevan Leach, champion ITU World Cup Asian LD Tri Champs (bike record) 2007.
CWC is now considered a wakeboarding mecca and world center for various water-based sports and the province expects some 2,000 tourists coming in for the competition.