NEGROS OCCIDENTAL FAST BECOMING A TOURISM, TRADE HUB

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, OCTOBER 4, 2003 (STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin  - Aside from being the country’s "Sugarlandia," Negros Occidental may soon be known as a premier tourist and business hub.

Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon said his province has become a favorite destination not only for tourists but for foreign and local investors as well.

"Our province is fast earning a niche as one of the most sought after convention hubs," he said, noting that each week his province hosts at least one convention with a minimum of 2,000 to 3,000 participants.

Due to the frequent holding of conventions in the province, Marañon said Negros Occidental has recorded 64,000 tourists and earned P280 million in the first six months of the year.

Based on the current trend, the number of tourists trooping to the province is expected to reach 200,000 by yearend despite the prevailing economic slump and other problems that have seriously affected the country’s tourism industry.

Jose Valencia, the governor’s chief of staff, said Negros Occidental’s tourism industry continues to experience a boom this year even as other destinations suffer from an alarming drop in visitors.

"One reason why our tourism industry continues to flourish is because we cater more to domestic tourists and thus, (we were) not affected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome," he said.

Valencia added that Negros is now a preferred destination by foreign tourists, particularly international scuba divers, because of different species of corals not found anywhere else in the world.

He added that Negros is different from other destinations because it is a haven not only of pleasure but also of business.

"We are now in business," Valencia said, noting that leading telecommunications companies are now operating in the province. A retirement facility for foreigners is also set to be constructed in the province soon.

At present, Negros accounts for almost 60 percent of the country’s sugar production and in the next four years, it is expected to become a major rice exporter.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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