PALAWAN and its private tourism sector, together with Rajah Travel Corp, Department of Tourism and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will be unveiling cultural heritage-oriented tour programmes for Puerto Princesa to boost tourist arrivals.
Developed by Rajah Travel, the first of these tour programmes, A Salute to Valor: Palawan – 70 Years of Freedom, commemorates the World War II invasion of Palawan and the fight between the US and the Japanese in 1945, and will be inaugurated in Puerto Princesa City from April 21 to 23.
“We need to increase the number of optional tours, the more the better,” said Aileen Clemente, Rajah Travel president, who is also a consultant with the USAID Compete programme.
“We will sell the programme, but it is also open for other operators – once they become familiar with it – to sell. It’s part of Rajah’s advocacy (efforts),” said Clemente, adding efforts to develop other historical tours for Palawan will continue for the next five years.
Palawan Tourism Council president, Debbie Tan, said: “The province aims to expand Puerto Princesa’s attractions, which currently highlight ecotourism through Puerto Princesa Underground River, Tubbataha Reef, and Honda Bay island, all of which are vulnerable to climate change.”
In fact travel operators have said the seasonality of these attractions, and the fact that the Underground River is usually visited only once, mean the city should look to develop other attractions.
The effort would also prop up sagging arrival figures for Palawan, which only grew six per cent from 2013 to 2014 with 735,000 visitors, and has seen a decrease in flights, including Puerto Princesa’s only international link to Kota Kinabalu via MASwings.
On a positive note, however, Philippine Airlines will launch a Taipei-Puerto Princesa charter on February 13, while Puerto Princesa is expecting completion of its new international airport in 30 months, said Matthew Mendoza, Puerto Princesa councilor and chair of the city’s tourism committee.
Tan added that Puerto Princesa meanwhile has enjoyed a surge in cruise ship maiden calls, and has 23 international ship visits scheduled in 2015.