Profile of Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda’s work on tourism development (as of 10 Apr 2023)

July 3rd, 2023

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda is a six-term Congressman and three-term Governor whose visionary efforts have transformed Albay into a tourism juggernaut.

In 2006, the year before Salceda took over as Governor of Albay, the whole province was ravaged by Typhoon Reming Then, Albay. recorded only 8,700 foreign tourist arrivals. Salceda through his national stature mobilized government and international resources to rebuild the province, and more – he built back better by firmly putting tourism at the center of its development goal.  By 2015, Salceda’s last full year in office, that number jumped to 339,000 foreign tourists. Domestic tourists leapt from 124,675 in 2006 to a staggering 1.41 million in 2015. 

The phenomenal growth in tourism in Albay is the result of a comprehensive tourism strategy that Salceda has been working to complete his entire political life. Salceda sought to transform Albay from merely a scenic tourist destination to a distinct tourism experience as well as a global model for governance – which also draws its own crowd of visiting admirers and learners especially in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Bicol International Airport – Bicolandia tourism’s crown jewel

The most distinctive achievement of Salceda in tourism will always be the completion of the Bicol International Airport, now the most scenic airport and the best interiored airport among all airports of the country. Aside from attracting new arrivals in domestic tourism, Albay positioned itself as the country’s Pacific Gateway through the Bicol International Airport. Despite all obstacles, Salceda persisted through three administrations to make it finally operational on November 2021. Currently, Salceda is also working on removing final obstacles to its operations as an international airport, including funding necessary infrastructure adjustments as well as completing its privatization for operations and management by the global aviation company “daa,” which also operates the Dublin Airport.

AlMaSor Tourism Alliance

As a tourism advocate, Salceda is known for his innovative and ambitious AlMaSor initiative which he started through the Bicol Regional Tourism Committee under the Regional Development Council where he chaired for 9 years. 

Patterned after the Yucatan Peninsula Alliance, AlMaSor is now the country’s most successful Tourism Development Area, where three provinces collaborate to cross-market the natural unity of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon combined into one tourism package – including the whale-sharks and Matnog beaches of Sorsogon, Mayon Volcano, Cagsawa and Mayon ATV of Albay, and Rodeo and Ticao Diving of Masbate. 

Salceda also promoted the Colors of Albay tourism circuit organized into 4 products – (a) ecotourism (green); (b) colonial heritage (gold); (c) crafts (brown); and (d) seas and islands (blue). One of its key features is the Albay Passport which guides and records a tourist journey through these circuits – an experience patterned after the famous Camino de Santiago passport.

Albay Tourism Circuit Roads

Salceda emphasized the need for a complete support ecosystem for tourism with underlying infrastructure. Albay embarked on connecting its tourist destinations through Guicadale Economic Township roads (roads leading to international airport), Duterte Highway in Daraga, Mayon Southeast Quadrant (Salvacion-Bigaa) bypass to 1DCamalig Bypass Road and the Albay-Sorsogon Bypass Road, Circumferential Roads of Cagraray and Batan Island and the spatial integration of the island of Cagraray through the Sula Bridge. 

During his first term as Congressman, he secured funding for the construction Albay West Coast road, Cagraray Circumferential Road and Sula Bridge, Ligao-Pioduran Road and the Libon-Pantao Road. These projects opened previously underdeveloped and under-invested areas to more tourism and economic opportunities.

MICE Network Ecosystem

Salceda is also scaling up the infrastructure base for tourism by pioneering an ecosystem of MICEs Centers (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibilitions) in every town of Albay through congressional initiative. Salced introduced the concept of MICE facilities being integrated with social development functions in 2023 budget, the first time this tourism-social development infrastructure integration appeared in the national budget. 

Thus far, he has initiated MICES in Rapu-Rapu, Daraga, Camalig, Manito, Guinobatan, Oas, Pioduran who can now host tourism activities with certainty and safety. 

Culinaria Albay – Toward a unique Albayano taste and a culture of food tourism

Salceda also initiated the project Culinaria Albay – an effort to create, develop, and market a unique Albayano cuisine. One of the projects under this umbrella effort is Fiesta Culinaria, part of project under the Karangahan Festival, which comes from the root word ‘ranga’ meaning “endearment to culture, arts and nature,” a month-long Christmas celebration that aims to promote green environment in Albay.

The provincial government has launched and distributed a brochure entitled “Kaon Kita” or “let’s eat,” which showcases different cuisines of famous restaurants. Culinaria Albay sought to have at least one restaurant in every major road across the 18 municipalities and cities of the province.

The provincial government invested heavily in promoting local dishes in various national and international food fairs. The effort has placed Albay in the global culinary map, with Pinangat garnering a place in the Top 50 World Street Food Masters list in 2017. The Sili Ice Cream, also first launched under Culinaria Albay, has become a must-try sensation. Longganisa de Guinobatan, a local sausage, has also gained a place as a favorite pasalubong from Albay.

Events Management and International Promotion

Salceda aggressively bidded to host the 2015 Palarong Pambansa, winning it in October and building the infrastructure in time for May – a feverish seven-month effort. It was the first time Albay hosted it since it started in 1947. It remains to be remembered as one of the best managed Palaro in its entire history.  

Albay has also strived to become a favorite convention venue and won hosting of UNWTO Conference, -ASEAN meeting, the 2015 APEC meetings, and the Meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board in 2015. It has likewise worked on international partnerships with the City of Incheon where he remains since 2012 to date as its international economic adviser. 

He forged economic partnerships with the Provinces of Cebu and Bohol, the two leading tourism moves outside NCR.  Through Salceda’s efforts, Albay has been presented either on invitation or as part of Philippine delegation to various international and national promotions including the Berlin ITB 2012 in Germany, the London WTM 2013, Shanghai TM 2013, DOT Hongkong 2014, and special events of the Philippine Asia Travel Association and the Philippine Travel Operators’ Association. Albay has also actively worked to be featured in airline publications.

Model in DRR and Climate Change Adaptation – tourism by being a learning destination

Salceda turned the challenge of Albay the Vatican of disasters – 5 major typhoons (out of 20), an active volcano erupting in 3-5 years, geologically prone to landslides and lahar – into a comparative advantage.

With Salceda as Governor, Albay pursued zero casualty goal almost as a religion, preemptive evacuation, massive relocation and dignity-based approach to displacement whether temporary and permanent. 

Salceda’s work in Albay is one of the country’s most inspiring stories of development: a story of how a disaster-stricken province recovered from one of the country’s deadliest typhoons ever to become a global leader in disaster resilience and a model for comprehensive human and economic development, with tourism as a spearhead for growth. 

Albay’s place as an international model allowed it to become a global destination for learning visits by local and national government agencies as well as international development partners, culminating in the visit of the Queen of Spain in 2012.

Green Albay – Albay Unesco Biosphere. 

Albay’s role as climate icon has become a platform for the projection of a green image for the province. It pursued to become the country’s one of only two Unesco-recognized Biosphere which included massive reforestation from 6300 hectares in 2003 to 53,000 hectares in 2016, mangroves from 700 hectares to 2,400 in 2013. 

The coordinated and massive greening effort contributed not only to protecting the natural beauty of Albay’s landscape. Albay’s training programs for climate change adaptation also became a major tourism magnet for foreign and local tourists, having trained officials from various countries and hundreds of local governments. 

Farm tourism and Farm Schools in response to Covid

Even the COVID-19 pandemic became a driver for new tourism development. Salceda worked on funding massive agricultural training program in areas newly developed due to tourism roads. This has resulted in the rise of the farm tourism and rural tourism sectors in Albay.

The farm tourism sector and emergence of many farm schools became a major lifeline for the province’s tourism industry at the height of COVID-19, when only outdoor destinations were allowed. Salceda trained almost 48,000 young farmers through TESDA-ATI consortium in edible landscaping, organic fertilizer concoction, urban farming. Farm schools became farm tourism sites, many of them now well-recognized major destinations of Albay like El Miro de Shei, Farmplate, Gamboa’s Orchard, and Lake Sumlang. The agricultural training program, spearheaded by Albay Young Farmer Program, was also recognized during the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) by the National Youth Commission.

Investing in Culture, Arts and History

Salceda also worked on transforming an Albay trip into a unique and total tourist experience beyond Mayon and Cagsawa – its traditional tourist draws.

He commissioned the writing of the histories of all the 15 towns and 3 cities of Albay. He dug deep into the prehistory of the province by promoting the myths, ancient gods and deities and the rituals attached to the ancient worships, superstitions and beliefs. These were showcased in the form of Higantes Parade, publication of the Mythological Characters of Albay, and live recreations of Haliya, Atang ki Gugurang, Tertulia, and Legend of Cagsawa among others.

He produced musicals, ballets, and live presentations of legends and rituals such as the “Daragang Magayon: Legend of Mayon” in the Cultural Center of the Philippines with music by National Artist Ramon P. Santos and “Sayaw kan Tulong Bulod” (Dance of the Three Mountains) at Albay Astrodome.

Salceda also funded researches in recording and presenting in parades the lives of local heroes, prehistoric, during the colonization periods, during the country’s struggle for independence and even present-day outstanding performances of local talents. 

He initiated local festivals celebrating Albay’s culture, such as Pulang Angui Festival, Cagsawa Festival, and Pinangat Festival. As Congressman, he sponsored legislation for the declaration of two special non-working holidays for Albay in commemoration of its heritage and history, namely April 3 as Albay Day and September 2 as Simeon Ola Day.

He also financed the publications of “Magayon an Satuyang Probinsiya” (Our Beautiful Province), “Guidebook for Tourist Guides”, “An Mythos Kan Albay” (The Myths of Albay) and the coffee table books for “Warm Albay; Warm People”, “Almasor 1”, “Almasor 2”, “Libon”, “Polangui”, “Oas”, and “Ligao” with multi-awarded writer Abdon M. Balde Jr.

He initiated the research and promotion of cultural sites such as Cagsawa, the Colonial Houses of Camalig, the Colegio de San Gregorio Magno, the ancient Sinimbahanan Church of Tiwi, the buried church of Budiao, the ruins of the convento of Malinao, etc. He also financed the geological researches on all the volcanoes and mountains in Albay such as Masaraga, Inascan, Lingyon, Mayon, Tuktukan, Bulakawan, Pokdol, and Malinao. These led to the declaration of Daraga Church, Tabaco Church, Cagsawa Ruins, and Budiao Ruins as National Cultural Treasures, and five other sites as Important Cultural Properties, as well as the tentative listing of Mayon Volcano Natural Park as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Salceda also appointed an Albay Poet Laureate and initiated the change of name of PTCAO to Provincial Tourism Culture and Arts Office, reflecting the shift to a more comprehensive approach to tourism.

Albay Pageant Academy – producing Albay tourism promotion queens

Albay also pioneered the Albay Pageant Academy, the first of its kind in the country, which sought to consistently produce pageant winners so that they could provide a national and international promotion for Albay.

Titleholders trained by the Academy include Melody Adelheid Gersbach (Bb. Pilipinas International 2009), Dianne Elaine Samar Necio (Bb. Pilipinas – International, 2011), Meryl Angeline King  (Miss Tourism World Philippines 2012) Bea Rose Santiago (Miss International, 2013), Yvethe Marie Avisado Santiago (Bb. Pilipinas Supranational, 2014), Mary Anne Bianca Garcia Guidotti (Binibining Pilipinas International 2014), Valerie Clacio Weigmann (Miss World Philippines 2014), and Catriona Gray (Miss World Philippines 2016, would later become Miss Universe). Crucially, Ms. Gray’s inimitable “lava walk” and gown was unmistakably inspired by Mayon Volcano, which was mentioned in Vogue and Time Magazine, lending credence to the entire strategy of the Albay Pageant Academy.

Local pageant queens that eventually became national titleholders include Patrixia Sheryl Santos (Ms. Magayon 2009, Ms. Ibalong 2008, Ms. Bicolandia 2009, Ms. Kaogma 2014 to Miss Earth Philippines (Air) 2019), and Shane Quintana Tormes (Miss Pulang Angui 2016 to Miss Philippines Earth Fire 2020 and  Miss Global 2022).

Spatial reconfiguration – move west and outward

Salceda also sought to distribute tourism development towards less-developed areas, such as the Albay West Coast. Albay developed seaports like the Port of Pioduran where 356,000 passengers coming from Masbate, Cebu and Panay used the RORO in 2013. 

As Congressman, Salceda pushed for opening Albay’s scenic but less populous west coast to tourism development by pushing for the establishment of the Pantao Port, as well as the construction of a network of countryside roads that paved the way for investments in resorts in the west coast’s beaches.

Salceda is also working with national government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform to fund major High-Value Crop farm-to-market roads to create the ecosystem necessary for new culinary and tourism experiences in Albay’s countryside.  

Recognition of Albay tourism under Salceda

As a result of Salceda’s work, Albay was recognized by various award-giving bodies as a giant in the international and domestic tourism scene.

International awards received by Albay under then-Governor Salceda include the “Top Destination Award” for the Pacific Asia Travel Association CEO Challenge in 2015.

Governor Joey Salceda of Albay was also recognized under the Local Chief Executive (LCE) Category  of the 2015 Tourism Star Award, the highest tourism award bestowed by the Department of Tourism. Salceda was also the pioneer awardee of the Department of Tourism’s Gayon Bicol Awards as “Bicol’s Tourism Champion” in 2013.

Albay was also consistently promoted by the Philippine Travel and Operator’s Association (Philtoa) as a “top summer destination.” 

In 2011, Albay bagged two Best Tourism Practices Awards at the national convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines held in Roxas City. These were for the Mayon 360 Degrees Ultra Marathon, an extreme sports adventure event and for Magayon Festival.

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Profile of Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda’s work on tourism development (as of 10 Apr 2023)
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