How does Palawan plan to reach its target of 1.4 million tourists in 2015?

interphoto_1427677157PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – International travel magazine Conde Nast named Palawan the Best Island in World last year. This emboldened the provincial government of Palawan to target a 66-percent increase in the number of tourist arrivals from 900,000-plus in 2014 to 1.4 million in 2015.

Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez was recently in Kota Kinabalu, and he was surprised to learn that the Malaysian destination attracts 3.5 million tourists a year. Personally, he wants Palawan’s visitors to come close to that number.

How is the province working to reach its tourism goals?

1. Make air fares to Palawan affordable.

The Palawan provincial government and AirAsia Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement which, among others, commits the budget airline company to launch more flights to the province in 2015 at lower prices. AirAsia has already included Palawan as among the destinations for its Piso Fare, and other promos. Governor Alvarez wants AirAsia’s connectivity to Malaysia, Brunei, and other Southeast Asian countries.

To reach his goal of three million tourists for 2016, he is also court other international airlines like Singapore Airlines. He is also encouraging more charter flights, which the province already has from Taiwan.

2. Build airports, seaports, and roads.

Governor Alvarez admits that Palawan lags behind Kota Kinabalu’s infrastructure, particularly in airports, seaports, roads, and hotels, but together with the national government’s Department of Tourism and the Department of Public Works and Highways, his administration seeks to spend P3 billion a year in infrastructure development in the next couple of years.

Already, the infra fever has cut by half the land trip between Puerto Princesa and El Nido down to four hours.

New earthmoving equipment of the Palawan provincial government. JOJO VITUG

Another airport north of Puerto Princesa City in San Vicente is due for completion within the year. It will be a “spacious, international grade airport with a capacity to accommodate 12 million passengers annually.”

Palawan is also building seaports to increase tourists coming in through cruises, says Deborah Tan, president of the Palawan Tourism Council.

3. Increase hotel capacity.

Tan says resorts and hotels in Puerto Princesa alone can accommodate 2,500 people. That’s enough for conventions and exhibits, she says.  

“If you count those in El Nido, the capacity is more,” she says.

View from Microtel Inn and Suites in Puerto Princesa. JOJO VITUG

4. Focus on power, clean water, Internet, and other public services.

The provincial government is already working to make, among others, power and clean water available in the entire province by the end of 2017, the governor says.

He says he is also talking to Smart and Globe for faster mobile phone and Internet connections.

5. Create historical, archeological tours.

The Palawan Tourism Council has prepared familiarization tours of historical and cultural destinations in the province. As part of this new thrust, Tan says the 70th anniversary celebration of the liberation of Palawan on April 21 to 23 will showcase this new direction. She says some 200 participants from the United States and the Philippines are expected to attend the commemoration of the historic event.

Entrance to Intramuros-like Spanish-era military fort, Fuerza Sta. Isabel, in Taytay, Palawan. JOJO VITUG

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