Local tourists flocking to new destinations and extreme sports

The famous Tuguegarao Cave Church

When tourists think of Bohol, chocolate hills and gentle tarsiers are usually the first things that come to mind, not a heart-stopping drop into a deep gorge. There’s more to the island-province than bug-eyed primates and brown mounds. Just a couple of hours away, the Danao Adventure Park offers the exhilarating Suislide and Plunge. The local version of the zipline, the Suislide consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, which is mounted on an incline, according to the Eco/Extreme/Educational Adventure Tour Danao website. Meanwhile, the Plunge is a canyon-swing adventure mounted over a gorge that is 200 meters high and 300 meters wide. While not for the fainthearted, such extreme activities offer an alternative vacation for tourists who want more than laid-back sightseeing. Which is exactly what the annual Travel and Tour Expo will do, putting the spotlight on emerging Philippine destinations, from Tuguegarao in Luzon to the Camotes Islands in the Visayas. The Expo will be held February 15-17 in the SMS Convention Center in Pasay. “There are a good bulk of local players coming in exhibiting during the fair,” said Philippine Travel Agencies Association President John Paul Cabalza, noting that they increased the number of booths to 554 from last year’s Expo of 477., The PTAA identified nine emerging tourist destinations that they will aggressively promote: Baler, Bataan, Camotes Islands, Davao, Leyte, Mindoro, Samal Islands, Siargao Island and Tuguegarao. “We’re actually looking at more domestic players gaining ground and at the same time assisting the Department of Tourism. This is a good example of the public private partnership,” Cabalza said at a press conference on February 5., Cabalza said the emerging destinations include the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, where there are already 17 resorts and hotels operating. Meanwhile, in Baler, more than 15 resorts are currently operating, Cabalza said, noting that the popular surfing destination also has numerous waterfalls. “We went there, and it was a fun trek. Even if you swim in their waterfalls area, it’s not that deep,” said Cabalza, noting that the waterfalls are well-managed. Cabalza also recommended Baler’s history trail, which includes Baler Church, the site of the Siege of Baler in 1898. The trail also includes Ermita hill, where only a few Filipinos survived the Tsunami of 1735, which wiped out the entire town., Aileen Clemente, chairperson of the 20th Travel Tour Expo, said the fair is an opportunity for emerging destinations to become more comfortable before promoting themselves outside the Philippines. “Since there are new destinations that we are promoting, this is like their first dry run of their destination, their product, their hotels… When they get that confidence level, there’s no stopping them from gaining all the inbound market as well,” she said.

Promoting domestic tourism In 2011, the revenue from foreign tourists reached about 100 billion pesos, while the revenue from domestic tourists was at 800 billion pesos, according to Department of Tourism Asec. Benito Bengzon Jr. In 2012, the number of domestic tourists exceeded 30 million. “We’re seeing a lot of Filipinos going around the country. More than ever, there is a greater sense of appreciation, greater pride in what the country has to offer and we feel that’s one of the factors that will push domestic travel,” said Bengzon. He added that the increase in airlines operating within the country contributed to this growth, as it gave consumers more options. Similarly, there are a variety of options when it comes to accommodations and facilities for travelers. “If people want the luxury, five star type, we have it. If they opt for the more Spartan budget type of accommodations, we also have it. But definitely, domestic tourism will continue to grow,” Bengzon said., PTAA Media Committee Chair Nit Ragaza noted that many foreign tour operators will be participating in the Travel Tour Expo, and this is also an opportunity to promote domestic tourism. “While their purpose is to sell their country, unavoidably they will be moving around and they will see also the beautiful spots that we have, and they can also relay this to their countrymen. Hopefully this will translate to more visitors in the Philippines,” Ragaza said., Bengzon also encouraged Filipinos to travel abroad, as this allows them to promote the country. “The more Filipinos go abroad, the wider the network that we have. Marketing the Philippines is not just the sole responsibility of the DOT. It’s everybody’s business, and we’re happy when Filipinos go abroad and start spreading the word around that it’s more fun in the Philippines,” he said. While tourists can easily book their trips online, the fair gives them an opportunity to find out about other destinations, as well as take advantage of promos and discounts. According to Clemente, the expo has something for everyone, from luxury deals to budget trips. This year’s fair is also bigger than last year’s event, which drew some 60,000 visitors. “The fact that we’re getting huge numbers is a very strong indication that there is deeper appreciation of tourism and travel among Filipinos,” Bengzon said., To reach this year’s target of 100,000 visitors, PTAA expanded the fair to include more exhibitors and prizes, as well as celebrities and special guests, including Hello Kitty, who will be brought in by the Japanese Embassy. The expo will also be streamed live online to be able to reach more people. “We’ll be scheduling the activities there as well so you can see what are the gimmicks and what are the shows that will be playing onstage and in each booth,” she said. Ragaza also said visitors to the expo will not have to spend hours in line in order to purchase airline tickets. “They don’t have to really fall in line at Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines or ZestAir. They can go straight to the 42 participating tour operators and they can actually make the purchase there,” he said., The Travel Tour Expo 2013 will be held on February 15 to 17, 2013 at the SMX Convention Center Halls 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and Function Room 5 in Pasay City. For more information, follow the Travel Tour Expo on Twitter (twitter.com/traveltourexpo) and Facebook (facebook.com/traveltour.expo) or call Fairs & More at (02)8451324 or (02)7596680.

Copyright: GMA News

Philippines, Hailed as One of the World’s Best Destinations in 2013

MANILA, Philippines — Looks like all of our hidden beaches will no longer be oblivious to foreigners as Condé Nast Traveller, an American travel magazine, ranked Philippines as second among the top 10 destinations to watch out for in 2013.

On its magazine online site, author Laura Fowler believes that it is the undiscovered beaches and the incredible underwater life that makes the Philippines particularly popular among serious divers. She also mentioned some of the country’s finest destination sites such as Bicol, Siargao, Palawan and Amanpulo.

Among the ”Top 10 hot destinations that will be big news for travelers in 2013″, Brazil ranked 1st. The Netherlands’ city of Amsterdam was ranked 3rd; 4th is Africa; Galapagos Islands, 5th; Kashmir, 6th; Mayan Riviera, 7th; New Zealand, 8th; Panama, 9th; while Oman placed the 10th spot.

As the author put it,  ”Sorry, Maldives… We love you, but we’ve got a new flame.”

With the country’s unexplored beaches and vast underwater wildlife, looks like Philippines already has the edge among its tropical neighbors.

NAIA-1 is World’s Worst Airport

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1

The airport named after the father of the current president of the Philippines has been tagged as the world’s worst airport. Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 has fallen 4 places from 5th place and being the worst in Asia to 1st place and the world’s worst.

The Guide to Sleeping in Airports (http://www.sleepinginairports.net) said NAIA Terminal 1 ranked the 30-year old airport as the world’s worst airport because of poor facilities, bribery and security concerns. Also According to the site, a portion of NAIA Terminal 1 already caved in last May.

Bribery and theft exists. Airport taxes are collected, but the money does not seem to go towards the betterment of the airport. Document holders have been told their papers are not correct, but a fee of x amount should clear up the matter,” the website noted.

The website also posted concerns such as the bad press that the airport received about the lack of clean toilets, running water and soap. The terminals are also lacking services such as left luggage and pay-in lounges.

The website said it ranks the world’s least favorite airports based on poll votes and user reviews for reasons such as safety concerns, lack of comfortable seating, rude staff, hostile security, poor facilities, few services to pass the time, bribery and being kicked out or other hassles of being in the airport.

The terminal has been a frequent target of criticism with travelers who say it is congested and filthy.

Free Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet: A Holiday Gift from Google Chrome

I remember flying from Cebu to Manila and vice versa a lot way back and I always thought why the hell can’t we access the internet while we fly? It’s not like it’s going to  interrupt the communications of the plane since we’re just going to use our laptops. It’s just really boring riding a plane especially when you’re alone. Of course there are other things that one can do but with the internet, time really flies. And you can do unfinished work as well. Flying literally meant disconnecting for several hours until you touched down at your destination.

Well guess what? The Google Chrome team, being a fan of innovations that make our lives on the web and in the browser better, collaborated with AirTan, Delta and Virgin America to offer free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi on every domestic flight from November 20, 2010 through January 2, 2011. Wi-Fi technologies nowadays allow us to stay connected even at 30,000 feet above the ground, so we can read the news, browse the web and send last minute emails before the holiday vacation begins.

This Holiday Gift will certainly make every travelers’ flight a whole lot exciting! Don’t you think? Happy Holidays!

Boracay Captured my Heart: A Love Story of Aklan

New friends, new families
One week was all I had to take a trip to Aklan better known for it’s Boracay Island. It was a very fulfilling and unforgettable travel experience for me because I reaped laurels in Kalibo due to the National Schools Press Conference, and at the same time, had a leisure trip to the tourist attractions of Aklan, especially, what else? Boracay! The sand and the smell of the sea was overwhelming. But I am most thankful for the tour guides and co-contestants in the NSPC who have become my buddies in my vacation-cum-contest. Everything’s worth it!

1st Day: I don’t love airports
I was so excited when I boarded the PAL plane bound for Kalibo at 3:00 pm. My adrenaline is surged up and I had a lot of misfortunes and adventures before I got the chance to go to Aklan for free. I won a Metro Manila journalism contest where the winners will compete in the national levels which will be held in Kalibo, Aklan for three days. The other days left will be for travel and leisure for us. So DepEd and my school sent me to Aklan together with another participant to bring back to Manila the much needed victory in the field of journalism.

The flight ran smoothly for us. After about 45 minutes the plane landed the borders of Kalibo Airport where the little hassles began. When we arrived, there was a blackout in the airport! It was drizzling and the machines used for scanning the baggages were not working. After a few moments, we saw our bags being drenched in the rain and were just piled up in a corner of the airport and we rushed to take our luggage! It gave me a headache. But that’s where the troubles end. We were welcomed in the airport by my adviser’s friends who served as our tour guides during our one week in Aklan. They drove us to our billeting area in Kalibo Pilot Elementary School. Unbelievably, their public schools are nice. We had dinner in a barbecue house near the school and unpacked our stuff. Everything is neat.

2nd Day and 3rd Day: Love the weather, hate the tension
On Sunday, we went to Aklan Baptist Church to pray for the upcoming contest and meet some people whom my adviser knew. They served us a sumptuous lunch and gave us a warm welcome. Hospitality reigns in their culture.
Monday was the official start of the NSPC. There was a popular ati-atihan dance (dance for a feast in honor of Santo Niño) and we enjoyed the warm welcome of Kalibo people. It  was my first time to see it and I my curiosity became satisfied. I’m beginning to adjust to the weather, which is really cold, and meet my new friends. Cristina, a senior, jogs around the school every morning when she wakes up and invites me to join her. The cool smell of fresh air soothed my lungs. It was a welcome breath after living in Manila for 15 years.
Despite the good events, the tension in my heart has started rising up. Wednesday was the schedule of my contest for Copyreading and Headline Writing. It doesn’t help that I’m having fun the whole time. 

4th Day and 5th Day: I Love Precious Moments, Bakawans, and awards
Wednesday was the day of the contests for my category. It was also the day our school principal arrived to join us for the contest and awarding. I did my best in writing a headline and my comrade already won an award for winning in Radio Broadcasting. What I cannot believe was when I heard my name being called for winning 4th place in the nationals! My Aklan trip was already well-paid. Our school principal was so happy about my win. My co-student also won third place in a different category.
Travel-wise, on Wednesday and Thursday, we strolled arround Aklan. We went to the museum of Precious Moments, dolls which are made by an American national based in Aklan. There were lots of dolls inside the museum which looks like a huge doll house, and I saw all the limited edition Precious Moments dolls. They were so cute. After that tour, I started to love the dolls with the trademark teardrop shaped eyes. We also went to a Bakawan park and marvelled at the aquatic trees. Of course we ate and ate during the tour, and probably gained weight. When night fell, we started packing up to get ready for tomorrow’s travel to Boracay Island!

6th Day and 7th Day: I’m in love
I never thought that Boracay is far from Kalibo. Our “tour guides” who are actually the best guides ever, drove us in a van from Kalibo all the way to Malay, Aklan for about 2 hours. During the travel, we saw lots of coconut trees and a view of the ocean of the province. It was beautiful. I have already fallen in love with Aklan, and I actually didn’t want to end my trip. After the long ride to Malay, we took a 30-minute boat ride to Boracay island.
When we arrived at Boracay, I immediately jumped off the boat and admired the fine white sand. I even put some sand into a mineral water bottle and took it home. We checked-in to a hotel and started swimming in the blue water of the sea. There were not much tourists because it was February, and I liked the serenity of the place. The only problem when you swim in February is that there were moss and seaweed around the shores. But then, I enjoyed every second of being there. I loved their green mango shake and mongolian buffet! Yum! But the best thing in Boracay is its sunset. Lovely is an understatement for describing it.
To wrap it up, Aklan is a province rich in culture, hospitality, and biodiversity. It’s people, attractions, and festivals are the reasons why tourists swarm the province. And I will never forget the moment I fell in love with it.

Google searches reveal top tourist spots

MANILA, Philippines – Beaches or water sports destinations are popular this year, based on internet search data by Google Inc.

In Google’s Zeitgeist (German for “spirit of the times”), a collection of top items searched on the internet by users from a particular area, the company identified the “fastest-rising travel destinations” in the Philippines.

Topping the list are beach destinations like Baler in Quezon province, a budding surfing hotspot; Coron town in Palawan, which is dotted with lagoons, caves, and rare fauna; as well as El Nido, also in Palawan, which is home to the posh El Nido Resort complex.


Time to travel: Room rates, air fares down

MANILA, Philippines — It’s a good time to travel nowadays as air fares have been slashed by as much as 50 percent while room rates are down by 10 percent.

Philippine Travel Agents Association (PTAA) vice president John Paul Cabalza said air fares have gone down by more than 50 percent to encourage more people to take a trip.

“There are some airlines that offer airfares for as low as P1,500 roundtrip for Palawan or Boracay,” he said.

Room rates have also gone down by 10 percent, still in an attempt to prop up domestic tourism to offset the slack in international tourism.

Because of the slowdown in the global economy, the government said tourism will have a negative growth or a flat growth at best.   [Read full article...]

Big-spending Europeans lift RP tourism

The increase in visitor count in 2008 is greatly attributed to the strong performance of the high-spending tourists from the European continent.

Russia, posted the largest growth of 34 percent, France by 19 percent, and the United Kingdom by 10 percent. Scandinavian countries also recorded substantial increment as arrival from Finland grew by 19 percent, Norway by 16 percent and Sweden by 6 percent.

In addition, the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) effort to diversify and offer new tourist products in the market like adventure, diving and bird watching provided impetus to stimulate an increase in awareness of the country’s tourist potentials and substantial turnout of high-value visitors with greater propensity to stay longer and spend more.[Read More...]

Honesty is the best policy in Batanes


Honesty Coffee Shop is a one of a kind store located in Ivana, Batanes.

What makes this Ivatan store interesting? No one looks after the merchandise so each customer is pretty much free to move inside the store.

Everyone is expected to be honest, the store owners trust the people enough to allow them to list the products they bought along with its corresponding price and then leave the payment in a drop box.

You can find an interesting sign on the wall that says “This store is too small for dishonest people,”.

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Time warped in Palaui

Lighthouses often conjure up images of crashing waves along rugged cliffs, remote hillside locations and architectural ruins of an era that has long been a part of history. It was with this expectation that I bravely accepted an invitation to visit the northernmost Spanish lighthouse of the country, located on top of a hill along the rugged northern shore of Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape.

The adventure begins

That morning the northeast wind was blowing steadily creating moderate waves along the eastern coast of Palaui Island. The sea looked daunting until we were told that we would be cruising along the west to get to the Spanish lighthouse at Cape Engaño. That side of the island is usually calmer at this time of year. Just the same I could not help but feel anxious as we approached the northern tip.

[Read More...]