Bicolano Business Tycoon Sees Legazpi City as Economic Giant in Southern Luzon by 2018

Four or five years from now, Legazpi City will be the economic giant in Southern Luzon, driven by a bigger influx of domestic and foreign tourists as the international flights commenced to Albay, Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy “Zaldy” S. Co said

Co said that this early, many investors are planning to invest in this city where big and new hotels will be built following the increase in the demand for accommodation spaces of foreign travel agencies in various countries.

The unlocking of the doors of Legazpi City Domestic Airport into an international gateway for international flights has immediately fueled a rippling effect wherein international travel agencies are asking for bigger accommodation facilities as large numbers of tourists are now intending to explore the wonders of the Bicol region, specifically Legazpi City and Albay province.

With this, Co, a young and reputable Filipino-Chinese businessman and chief executive officer of Sunwest Group of companies, said he will expand and establish bigger hotels in Albay, specifically in Cagraray Island to cater to the big influxes of tourists even before the completion of the P3.5-billion Southern Luzon International Airport here.

He said there’s a need to build more hotels in Legazpi that could accommodate more than 1,000 tourists as 250 cities in China will be sending travelers and two planes a day if there are sufficient rooms available here.

Co, who greatly helped the government to fast track the recovery of Albay after the occurrence of catastrophic super typhoon “Reming” in November 2006, owns the Misibis Bay Resort and Casino, a high-end resort in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town, where the rich and famous go for a vacation.

“We will increase its capacity to accommodate more guests,” he added.

Co said four or five years from now the economy of Bicol, specifically Albay province, will be booming as more airlines from other countries have signified interest to fly in through the Legazpi Domestic Airport following its upgrading as a new gateway for international chartered flights in Southern Luzon.

“We’re very happy because Bicol, especially Legazpi and Albay, was chosen by investors and travel agencies from many countries as their ideal international hub. They choose Legazpi City and Albay province compared to the usual Cebu and Davao as new tourist and economic hubs in Philippines owing to our better sites and unique ecotourism destinations which cannot be found in other regions,” the business-philantropist said.

The international maiden flight to Albay took place on the eve of Chinese New Year where 150 tourists flew directly from Xiamen to Legazpi via Philippine Airlines (PAL).

“Soon, we will be having twice-a-day international flights and if our airport could only accommodate a night flight, more foreign tourists will be coming here because night flight is less expensive than day flight. So, in the next four or five years, Legazpi, though the youngest city, will be a giant metropolitan in the country,” he said.

Co, whose father hails from Xiamen, China, said Chinese tourists never hesitate to come here because they share the same roots.

Xiamen, also known as Amoy, is a major city on the southeast coast of the People's Republic of China and is administered as a sub-provincial city of Fujian province with a population of 3.67 million.

The second batch of 156 Chinese nationals from Xiamen arrived here this week.

Department of Tourism Bicol Regional director Maria Nini Ong-Ravanilla said the next batch of foreign tourists arriving in Legazpi will be composed of Korean and Russian nationals.

Ravanilla said the commencement of international flights in Legazpi brings in positive economic growth, making Albay province a corridor of a new international hub in Southern Luzon.

Albay regained its glory as top tourist destination in Bicol with high tourist arrivals because of good public and private partnership, Ravanilla said.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, for his part, said the Albay program on Chinese tourism promotion renewed a robust trade between Albay and China even before the Spanish regime here.

"The Albay program on China tourism promotion should be seen within the context of people-to-people exchange and interaction which had occurred for a long time with robust trade between Albay and China even before the Spanish rule. Such people-to-people interaction should expand the space for understanding that could result in mutual benefit," Salceda said.

The opening of international flights here is done prior the opening of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in December where Albay province won the bid to host several ministerial meetings.

Joey Aguilar, who came from Naga City and is the tourism attaché in Xiamen for more than six years now, said the opening of domestic airport in this city to international gateway is historic as the first wave of Chinese migrants in the Philippines came from Xiamen.

“This could be considered as a milestone in Bicol as it will strengthen ties and push economic growth in the countryside. We’re expecting more Chinese tourists to visit here beginning summertime in China from July to August.(PNA/CTB/FGS/Rhaydz B. Barcia/cbd/)

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