Bicol is part of Tourism Central Philippines super region, one of the five growth corridors identified in President Arroyo’s super region development strategy that is known for its natural wonders and rich cultural heritage.
The tourism super region accounts for 50 percent of the country’s tourism industry. In 2008, foreign visitors to the country totaled 3.14 million.
Donsol, which transformed itself from a sixth-class municipality in 2006 to a first-class municipality last year, is known worldwide for hosting a pod of 50 whale shark or “butandings” during the peak season of December to May every year.
Whale shark watching and interaction is a major eco-tourism activity here, which is also known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World.”
Sorsogon, with its Donsol attraction, and Camarines Sur, with its wakeboarding center and the Caramoan beach and coves which hosted the US reality TV series “Survivor”, are the two Bicol provinces reaping tremendous tourism arrivals and revenues.
Although Cebu topped the list of 14 leading tourist destinations in the Philippines, Camarines Sur posted the highest growth last year. From 2008 to 2009, local and foreign tourists in Camarines Sur grew by a hefty 117.25 percent to 721.024 compared to the previous year. During the same period, Cebu grew by only 1.24 percent to 1.6 million.
Despite the global economic slump, foreign and local tourists reached 5.2 million in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year or 17 percent higher than the same period during the previous year.
Tourism growth could be traced in part to massive investments made by government in tourism-related infrastructure in the Central Philippines super regions since 2001 when the President assumed office. These included 42 airport projects costing P27.31 billion; 108 ports constructed by the Philippine Ports Authority costing P8.76 billion and 145 municipal ports costing P1.23 billion; 8,783 kilometers of roads and 18,741 meters of bridges costing P54.14 billion; and the P52.44-billion Southrail project.
This year, the Department of tourism projects foreign tourist arrivals at 3.27 million, generating direct revenues of $ 3.31 billion and employment of 3.39 million.
As an industry, tourism is expected to generate revenues of $ 17 billion this year, which is equivalent to 13.6 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) or the total sum of goods and services produced in the country. Source – (PNA)