By Johnny C. Nunez
LEGAZPI CITY, (PNA) — For being the largest crowd drawer, the Almasor (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon) Tourism Alliance booth at the Philippine Travel Mart (PTM) 2013 held September 6-8, at the Mall of Asia SMX Convention Center, in Pasay City, bagged the People’s Choice Award for Provincial Category of the fair.
Bannered as the “Soul of the South”, Almasor is a new marketing strategy organized last year by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda as chair of the Bicol Regional Development Council packaging the tourism potentials of the three southernmost provinces of the region.
The Almasor booth at MOA SMX Convention Center – Pavilion C was generally acclaimed “the most visited, most voted and most photographed” booth of the fair.
Organized and Sponsored by the Philippine Tour Operators’ Association (Philtoa), the largest organization of tour operators in the country, PTM 2013 was participated by airlines, hotels, travel agencies and local government units.
Philtoa officials said Almasor’s performance was decidedly impressive and its booth which depicted Bicol’s ethnic wealth and drew more crowds than other booths. Last year, Almasor was internationally acclaimed as a fresh concept in marketing strategy at the ITB Berlin Trade and Tourism Fair.
Countless guests dropped by the Almasor booth and sampled the ethnic foods, bought native products and souvenir items, and took pictures. Beauty titlists from the Albay Pageant Academy – led by 2011 Miss International Dianne Necio – graced the occasion.
On the last day of the fair, Salceda launched the ‘Soul of the South’ Coffee Table Book, a glossy 102-page 11 x 8 publication showing colorful photographs of Almasor’s attractive and inviting tourism destinations.
Salceda said the alliance could not have been more timely and appropriate. “Indeed Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon are sister provinces as they once constituted together the original province of Albay during the Spanish colonial period,” he added.
“Tourist traveling within these provinces wuld not notice their boundaries. The lands are seamlessly woven by contiguous roads and rivers. Common mountains and forests straddle towns and communities of these provinces. The same sea and ocean waves rush and caress their shores and beaches. The people are of the same etnic origin and are bound by similar culture, traditions and similar beliefs,” Salceda raphsodized during the book launching.
He said the book is “a compendium of the esthetics found in the wilds and environs of Almasor; gives an ecological foretaste far exceeding what any grouping of provinces in the Philippines and at par with the best the rest of the world has to offer; ang offers a unique experience that promotes culture attached to the environs and its beauty.”
Among Almasor’s foremost tourism wealth are Albay’s iconic Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins; and Donsol, Sorsogon’s Butanding Interaction experience and the “virgin” beaches of Masbate.
Its other attractions include the ATV adventure along the lava walls of Mayon and the Lingyon Hill Nature’s Park; the country’s first monument to Andres Bonifacio in Santo Domingo; the boiling lakes in Manito town; the ten kilometers pinkish-white and crystal-clear waters of the San Isidro Beach in Masbate; the blue lagoon of Paguriran Island, and the Balading Beach in Magdalena, both in the province of Sorsogon.
The coffee table book, Salceda said, gives the reader a virtual tour of the vast tourism wealth of the three provinces, presenting their historical and cultural backgrounds and past alliances from way back to their pre-colonial times. It also spotlights the luxury island hideaway Misibis Bay Resort in Bacacay, Albay.