The interesting tourism offer of the Philippines was made apparent to Editorial Director Peter Stonham in November, when he attended a conference organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Legazpi. It took the longest single sector flight Peter has taken to get from Heathrow to Manila, at a scheduled 15 hours, made possible by the latest long haul aircraft. His initial two days in the Philippines capital was ‘interesting but stressful’ says Peter, with the very densely populated city of over 1.5 million people teeming with activity, hot and humid, and bedevilled by traffic jams! It was colourful and cheerful though, and Peter comments on the really friendly Filipino people. He also found the main local transport mode – the jeepney – an amazing social experience with the many coloured jeep-style vehicles weaving in and out of traffic and constantly being joined and left by local people to get around!
The short domestic flight to Legazpi changed the atmosphere considerably as the city is a delightful and more gentle place on the Gulf of Albay with its dominating Mayo Volcano, still regularly active. Peter enjoyed three days there where the local tourism authorities were enthusiastically supporting a PATA conference on future sustainable tourism in the region. There was a day of exploration including a four-wheel drive up to the volcano, ancient ruins caused by previous eruptions, verdant hillsides, and unusual historic churches showing the Spanish colonial influence that makes the Philippines an interesting cultural experience in some contrast to its Asian neighbours.
The conference itself included presentations on preserving marine environments and managing tourist access to coral reefs, working with local communities to preserve wildlife and natural environments for visitors as an alternative to deforestation and extinction of species, and the creation of new themes for ecosensitive travellers. A cultural evening featured cameos from the many festivals that take place throughout the year in the Philippines on different themes, all providing an animated and expressive showcase for the Latino and Asian cultures that come together in this sometimes overlooked destination area. Peter recommends the possibilities of enjoying the Philippines by European visitors with the predominance of the English language, friendly people and their careful approach to hospitality that ensures a rewarding and good quality experience around the hundreds of varied islands that make up the archipelago.