Summer Adventures

April 19th, 2012

Summer is definitely here, and this time I believe we will have a hotter and longer summer than last year. This is good news for the tourism entrepreneurs, especially those who have invested in vacation spots along the coastlines of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Our Selecta ice cream sales will be hitting the roof with the blistering heat, and I am sure our airconditioners business, managed by my cousins, will do just as well.

Summer is when we take some time off and head for a different adventure with our kids and family. Well, this time, we are off to Cebu to board our dive boat, which took us three years to build. It is quite a long time, but I would say converting a 30-year old boat into something almost as good as brand new was worth the wait.

It’s been five years since we did serious dives, before my wife gave birth to our fifth child Isabella. This is why we named our dive boat Bella, under a company called Bella Adventures.

Some of our guests took the 40-hour boat ride from Subic to Cebu, encountering big waves along the way, while we just flew to meet them in Cebu.

The islands of the Philippines are fantastic. The Visayas is extremely blessed with great beaches and dive spots, and the ocean is full of dolphins and whale sharks – from Leyte and Malapascua, to Bohol, Moalboal, and Oslob at the southern tip of Cebu, which will be our first stop. To be able to dive with the whale sharks is going to be truly a different experience. I was told that close to 2,000 people a day flocked to the beach last Holy Week, but I hope that it will not happen while we are there.

As we speak, Filipinos and foreigners, especially those who are married to Filipinas, have been starting to invest in tourism. While Boracay has been voted as one of the top ten beaches in the world, we still have many undiscovered places. I am told about Tao Philippines, a unique way of exploring the hundreds of remote islands of Northern Palawan, between El Nido and Coron. What’s different about this is that instead of the usual tours, guests are to live and interact with the different local communities on the islands for five days and four nights. While this may be not for everyone who is used to being pampered in hotels when they go out-of-town, Tao Philippines offer by far the most exciting and authentic island experience.

There is also Ariara Island, a unique private island located north of Palawan where we would like to visit next time. Aside from its spacious accommodation and rich biodiversity which is preserved because it is far from the influences of pollution, Ariara allows its guests to experience complete privacy because the owners only accommodate exclusive rentals to one group or party at a time.

I decided to own a luxury dive boat since we have so many islands. It would be good to have a moving hotel complete with a diving experience, among other adventures that we can do. We will be the first to see how Bella functions. Hopefully, if all is okay, it can allow others to experience the beauty of the Philippine islands.

The Department of Tourism is now under Sec. Ramon Jimenez, whom I knew when he and his wife owned the ad agency Jimenez and Partners. He handled Selecta for us when I just acquired it from the Arces years ago. Mon and his wife were so creative when we were up against an ice cream Goliath, Magnolia, at that time. He did well for us with his creative campaigns. I am sure he will do just as well in selling the Philippines, not only as a fun place but a great place to invest in.

As more people invest in the country, specifically in tourism – be it in hotels, resorts, dive boats, and even tours highlighting food or other adventures, we advertise our negosyos in different international magazines and websites, which in turn promote the Philippines. The number of casinos to open soon will bring more tourists here as well, from China, Japan, and nearby Asian countries.

More airports are being built all over the Philippines. But our biggest challenge is NAIA. The wait to take off from Manila to Cebu can be as long as 45 minutes – almost as long as the flight itself. This can be a turn off. Our tourism image may also take long to boom if this happens all the time.

As I see it, Clark is the only alternative for now, but the distance between Manila to Clark is also a challenge due to the traffic. For now, special buses escorted by police may help until such a time the proposed railway system is done. This will take years to do, but we need a solution soon.

Another possibility is Sangley; it might be faster for us to reclaim it and expand from there. But whatever the solution is, if we are to grow the tourism industry before PNoy’s term ends, a plan is needed and implemented by this year.

Next week, I will share with you the story of a good friend, Justin Uy, who is known as the Mango King. He recently invested big in Cebu’s tourism with the J Centre Mall and the Imperial Hotel. His was a fantastic story of someone with sheer passion who has been able to overcome so many adversities, and succeeded.

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Our Negosyo sa Barangay in Tagbilaran City, Bohol last Thursday to Sunday was a huge success, which was attended by around 450 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials. This is a project of Go Negosyo, in partnership with DTI and Center for Future Leadership. Another session of this will be held in Davao starting tomorrow, April 18 to 22.  Call 383-3154 to register and get a seat.