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Mayon Eruption Brings Biggest Surge of Tourists to Albay - PIA

Legazpi City (11 January) -- Albay province has recorded an influx of some 76,000 tourists, foreign and local alike, as Mayon Volcano eruption, displaying spectacular show lava trickling from the crater down the slopes, mostly visible at night time, took the limelight of being the most-sought-after among other attractions in Bicol in time for the holiday season.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said on Monday (January 4) the unprecedented figure of 76,000 tourists arrival in the province had Albay achieved the province's annual target in just a month based on a 2,400 current daily tourist arrivals since December last year.

Salceda added that the Mayon eruption has definitely created a significant surge in transport utilization, hotel accommodation, and food services, among other tourism's facilities in the province.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol noted that the Mayon eruption has greatly contributed to the tourism sector with a hotel occupancy rate of 80 percent as compared to the 46 percent rate in December 2008.

Maria Ravanilla, DOT Bicol regional director, said Albay has 1,700 available rooms, adding that tourist arrival since the start of Mayon eruption event was almost 2,500 daily compared to less than a thousand daily in December 2008.

She said rough estimates of visitor receipt was placed at P800,000 daily with a job generation of 3,000.

Salceda however said the eruption event, considered as disaster tourism, is neither encouraged, promoted nor sponsored by the provincial government.

Disaster tourism is certainly not within the contemplation of the provincial development strategy even if disaster risk reduction and tourism are integral components,
he said.

The sudden surge of tourists is an unintended consequence of a volcanic eruption.

There are actually at least three typologies of this phenomenon - the most common is Mayon watching particularly at Lignon Hill, then the increased visits by non-government organizations (NGOs), foundation work, charity groups and other civil society organizations, event presidential and senatorial aspirants, visiting various evacuation camps and the increased media coverage of the province.

Hotels, including the smaller ones, are getting fully booked. Flights and buses get higher load factors but higher tricycle ridership was the one that gives the area real monetary benefit. "Turo-turo", restaurants, malls, bars are flourishing.

He pointed out that the disaster tourism incremental output does not match what was spent for evacuation of P1.5 million a day for 9,946 families housed in 29 evacuation camps.

The incremental output of 2,500 daily tourists mostly staying for one day assumed at P1,000 daily spending or P2.4 million additional at gross value added factor of.41 percent or P880,000.

He admitted that, there are spillover effects as Albay gets unusual attention for other human interest stories and promotion of our destinations like Misibis, Embarcadero, Tiwi and Manito geothermal which can not be quantified.

The incremental benefits of disaster tourism are simply outweighed by the actual destruction on the livelihoods, crops and properties.

Economic impacts brought by the volcano's eruption in 2000 amounted to P284 million, in 2001- P301 million and in 2006 - P505 million. The public expenditure for evacuation lasting between 47 to 92 days at an average P1.5 million per day costs P70 million to P138 million. Thus, for 2006, the eruption period which lasted 47 days, the total cost to the Albay economy amounted to P575 million.

He said the province is better off without an eruption even if anecdotally the public gets carried away by the deceptively benevolent images of surging tourists.

The tourism incited by Mayon itself without eruption is certainly beneficial and is strategically pursued by our tourism programs, he said. (PNA Bicol/PIA)

by MS Arguelles
Source: Philippine Information Agency(PIA) - 11 January 2010

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