Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kopi Talk MICE, Spice and Everything Nice

Where is now more reason to visit this charming City of Legazpi, provincial capital of Albay, than ogling at the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano. Nestled at the foot of the legendary volcano and named after the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, this city is aspiring to be a major convention hub in the country. "Legazpi City has all the ingredients of being a vital center for regional and national MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions)," says Mayor Geraldine Rosal. The lady mayor said that the city is trying to lure visitors for conventions, incentive travel and sports tourism because of the unique mix of natural allure and urban comforts the city offers. This year, the city has hosted the national gatherings of the ICT Confederation of the Philippines, the Philippine Councilors League (PCL), the Directors of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board, the Vice Mayor's League, the Congressional Spouses, and the Parole and Probation Officers League of the Philippines, Inc. (PPOLPI). In October, it will be the turn of the Jaycees International and the Philippine Obstetrical & Gynecological Society to discover the charm of the city. Moreover, the national organizations of Zonta Club and the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity have set their meets on the city in 2013. The regional center of the Bicolandia, Legazpi offers urban amenities such as shopping malls, star-rated boutique hotels, hospitals, and cozy bars and restaurants. Currently, the city has some 1,500 rooms ranging from luxury to economy that suit all budgets. Among the notable accommodation facilities are the newly-opened hilltop Oriental Hotel, the only five-star hotel in the Bicol region, La Piazza, and Hotel St. Ellis which have convention halls for medium-sized events. Rosal said the growing number of national gatherings necessitates for the construction of a convention center at par with national standards which will be built along the scenic Legazpi City Boulevard facing Albay Gulf. The 14-kilometer bayside boulevard which leads to the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in nearby Daraga town is touted to be the longest of its kind in the country. Currently, the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR), the city's sports complex also doubles as venue for big meetings, and for medium-sized events, and the Concourse Accessibility is not a problem as the city can be reached by plane from Manila with four airlines servicing route with five flights daily, and Cebu Pacific Air plying the Legazpi- Cebu and Legazpi-Tacloban routes. Rosal added that the completion of the SLIA will strengthen Legazpi's positioning for international meets. Talks are already rife with local carriers for Asian flights once the airport is completed two years from now. Legazpi can also be reached by land from Manila, Southern Tagalog region, Visayas and Mindanao via the Maharlika Highway, the backbone of the country's highway system. The more adventurous ones can try the train which will be fully restored up to its old terminal in Legazpi before the end of the year. An (unwritten) criteria for the selection of convention sites are the tourist spots of the host city. And in this department, Legazpi is not wanting. "The City Council recently adopted the slogan 'City of Fun and Adventure' to be the branding of Legazpi in line with the promotional thrust of the Department of Tourism," Rosal revealed. She said that visitors can enjoy the city with its various adventure activities such as the Ligñon Hill zipline and hanging bridge, the exciting ATV rides at the Mayon lava trail, and the Embarcadero zipline and lighthouse tower rapelling. Legazpi is also the jump-off point to nearby attractions such as the postcard-pretty Cagsawa Ruins Park in Daraga, the posh Misibis Bay Resort in Bacacay town, and the butanding (whale shark) interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon. Spicing up the conventions, quite literally, are the signature Bicolano spicy dishes which have become sought-after because of their luscious taste. Rosal noted that Legazpi plays a vital role in the Albay Culinaria, the culinary tourism program of the provincial government aimed at promoting Albay as a foodie's haven. The city has a good concentration of specialty restaurants, grilleries, coffee shops, bars and watering holes which keep nocturnal life vibrant. Just outside the doorstep of the city in neighboring town of Daraga are cozy restos which evoke an old world charm with their ambiance and comfort food--Balay Cena Una, Balay Suanoy and Alvi's Albay Cafe. She concluded that the MICE tourism boom in Legazpi has encouraged the rise of small and medium tourism-related enterprises which bodes well for the economy of the whole province of Albay.