Profile of Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda’s work on tourism development

April 5th, 2023

30 March 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 province recorded only 8,700 foreign tourist arrivals. By 2015, Salceda’s last full year in office, that number jumped to 339,000.

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.

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.

With Salceda as Governor, Albay pursued an aggressive and coordinated effort to become one of the country’s top tourist destinations. The multi-pronged development approach combined Disaster Risk Reduction-Climate Change Adaptation (DRR-CCA); Nature, Culture, and Events Management, Product Positioning, Facilities Improvement, and Active Promotions.

Albay’s role as a DRR-CCA icon has become a platform for the projection of a green image for the province. Albay’s training programs became a major tourism magnet for foreign and local tourists, having trained officials from various countries and hundreds of local governments.

Salceda also worked on transforming an Albay trip into a unique and total tourist experience.

On culture, Albay restored and upscaled its Magayon Festival and supported the up-scaling of festivals in all its towns and cities under the theme “Planet Festival Albay.” It created the Albay Historico-Cultural Unit under the province’s tourism office; instituted its Albay Poet Laureate program; commissioned research on town histories and published coffee book table books on them; pursued ethno-cultural engagements with local artists, historians, painters, sculptors and cultural workers on the core Albayano culture, leading to the staging of the “Sayaw nin Tulong Bulod.”

Under its program to protect its biosphere, Albay has increased its forest cover by 88% which regenerated aquifers which now feed water to rivers and waterfalls despite the drought; expanded its mangrove forests by 1,700 hectares in 4 years; launched its No-Plastic-Bags campaign; passed an Anti-Smoking ordinance and instituted a Mining ban.

Salceda’s capstone effort in this area is the establishment of the Albay Biosphere Reserve – one of only three UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the country, along with Puerto Galera and Palawan. This has also boosted Albay’s profile in the world stage.

On events management, Albay has strived to become a favorite convention venue and won hosting of UNWTO-ASEAN conferences, the 2015 APEC meetings, and the Meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board in 2015. It has likewise worked out partnerships with Legazpi City and other LGUs on conventions and conferences.

Albay also positioned itself as the country’s Pacific Gateway through the Bicol International Airport. The Bicol International Airport was a commitment given to Salceda by President Arroyo when he requested for funding for its pre-project studies. Its completion was also a commitment given and delivered by President Duterte to Salceda, whom the administration credited as the project’s principal mover.

Salceda also promoted Albay as part of a broader Bicolano tourism experience. Albay developed seaports like the Port of Pioduran where 356,000 passengers coming from Masbate, Cebu and Panay used the RORO in 2013; institutionalized the ALMASOR Tourism Alliance which now cross-markets the natural unity of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon as demonstrated by the Butanding of Sorsogon, Mayon ATV of Albay and Rodeo of Masbate; 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).

On facilities improvement, Albay has upgraded the Almasor roads, Guicadale roads (roads leading to international airport), Albay West Coast road, Cagraray Circumferential Road and Sula Bridge, Ligao-Pioduran Road and the Libon-Pantao Road.

Through Salceda’s efforts, Albay has been presented in 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.

In his return to Congress, Salceda once again worked on funding various tourism roads reinforced with related social services. For example, the result of his district’s massive agricultural training program in areas newly developed due to these tourism roads is the rise of the farm tourism and rural tourism sectors in Albay. The farm tourism sector was also a lifeline for the province’s tourism industry at the height of COVID-19, when only outdoor destinations were allowed.

Salceda also funded the construction of various bypass and tourism roads, including the Daraga Urban Eco Tourism Route or DUTERTE Highway, the Camalig Bypass Road, the Camalig Tourism Circuit Roads, and various roads in the Daraga suburban and exurban areas.

In his 6th term, Salceda introduced the concept of the Multi-Purpose Training and Instructional Facility/Meetings Incentives Conferences for Education, Sports Building (MICES) in the 2023 budget, the first time this tourism-social development infrastructure integration appeared in the national budget.

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.

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