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Friday, March 29, 2013

Philippines aims to become Asia’s scuba diving capital


With nearly 500 unexplored dive sites, the Philippines could well become Asia’s scuba diving capital.
“In fact, the Philippines is already being regarded by many foreign divers as the ‘center of center’ of diving in the world,” said Benedict Reyes, president of the Philippine Association on Underwater Activities (PAUA) and board member of the Asian Underwater Federation.
Besides popular diving destinations in northern Luzon, Southern Tagalog, the Visayas and Mindanao, Reyes said there are
hundreds more of potential dive sites all over the country that can be developed.
“The Philippines is one big dive site,” he stressed, noting the Philippines’ archipelagic structure.
Karen Chan, executive director of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), noted diving is already regarded as one of the top tourist activities in the Philippines even if it is not well-promoted. “What more if it was?” she asked.
In line with this, a Dive Expo and Exhibition Philippines (World Deep) will be held from April 18 to 21 at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa in Cebu. This will coincide with the World Underwater Federation’s 13th Elective General Assembly, which will also be held there from April 17 to 23.
The event is expected to gather about 150 underwater federation leaders from all over the world – all of whom are endorsed by their respective governments and are key movers in underwater activities throughout the globe.
Reyes believes the Philippines will catch the attention of officials of the World Underwater Federation, more popularly know as CMAS or Confederacion Mondial des Activites Subaquatiques, the first international dive agency in the world.
According to its website, CMAS comprises of “over 130 federations from five continents. In addition to organizing international underwater sport events it is at the forefront of technical and scientific research and development. It can be associated with elaborating one of the oldest and most extensive dive training systems.”
It was founded by Jacques Yves Costeau, the father of scuba diving.
According to Reyes and Chan, World Deep will also showcase the Filipinos’ professionalism in organizing world events with the aim to unify the fast-growing diving community in the country and to activate and inspire the local diving community.
World Deep also intends to introduce alternative underwater sports, which have yet to gain ground in the country.
Included in the seminars during the World Deep are new and emerging underwater sports such as finswimming.
According to Philippinefinswimming.com, the use of just one fin allows the swimmer to move “much faster than with two. The monofin swimming technique coordinates the entire body into a single swimming muscle affording the swimmer better propulsion and greater speed. The monofin brings people closer to every swimmer’s dream – to swim with the dolphins.”
During the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, Filipino finswimmers took home the gold — the first time that the country joined the event.
Other seminars during the World Deep will include underwater photography, underwater wrestling or better known as aquathlon and apnoea or breath-hold diving.

Foreign tourism arrivals achieves back-to-back record growth


International visitors to the Philippines for the first two months of the year closed at another record high of 854,187 or a double-digit growth of 10.5% from 772,989 of the same period in 2012. The country extended its record-breaking run by surpassing the 400,000 arrival mark for both January (436,079 arrivals) and February, making it three months in a row since December 2012 with 442,088 arrivals – an uptrend that is expected to continue until the summer months.
Visitor arrivals for February 2013 soared 15.52% with 418,108 arrivals, marking the first time that this month achieved more than 400,000 visitors. The Chinese New Year stimulated the growth during the month, with Hong Kong posting a 93.80% growth rate, China registering 69.87%, Macau at 44.05%, and Taiwan at 20.67%. Countries from the ASEAN region likewise registered double-digit gains.
For the period January to February 2013, Korea remained the top contributor with 241,116 visitors, growing by 25.6% and cornering slightly more than a quarter of the total inbound traffic. The second largest yield came from the United States with 120
,868 or 14.2% of the visitor count. Arrivals from Japan comprised the third biggest arrivals of 73,621 visitors. The list is followed by China with 69,610; Taiwan with 37,921; Australia with 34,095; Singapore with 25,800; Canada with 25,338; Hongkong with 23,097; Malaysia with 18,947; United Kingdom with 18,563; and Germany with 13,774.
Double-digit gains were also experienced in significant source markets such as India (24.99%), Russian Federation (23.97%), Malaysia (23.42%), Hongkong (18.92%), Singapore (14.47%), and Australia (11.43%) from January to February 2013. By regional grouping, the ASEAN market posted an 18.5% overall growth with the East Asian region recording a 14.57% increase.
“Our tourism numbers are now reaching unprecedented heights. We have a target of 5.5 million this year and 10 million by 2016. Our efforts are in full swing to raise greater demand, facilitate entry and access to the different destinations, and for our suppliers and host communities to come together and create fun-filled experiences. We need to seize this momentum of rising global attention to reach more markets and bring about conversion,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.
“At the same time, front-loading infrastructure projects should address connectivity and multi-modal access. Market development will also work to punch deeper into the segments of traditional markets while creating interest in high-potential emerging markets,” the tourism chief added.
With the recent lifting of the Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) by the United Nations – International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Philippines can look forward to regaining Category I status from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the subsequent lifting of the European Union (EU) ban. The rationalization of the Common Carriers Tax (RA 10376), which was signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III earlier this month, is also seen to aid in improving and enhancing the country’s competitiveness in the international travel arena.
“With these two major milestones, we shall see greater traffic to and from more destinations, stimulating more business for both foreign and local carriers. With the upward trend in visitor arrivals and recent surge in real estate development, airline companies will begin to see the viability to fill our capacities and make the Philippines a part of their primary route offering. It will be an interesting four years in the run up to our 2016 goal,” Secretary Jimenez added.