MANILA, June 23, 2005
(MALAYA) By Dennis Ladaw - THINK of Subic and expensive yacht clubs, luxury resorts and lavish villas come to mind. Yet there’s more to Subic than just being the ideal venue for the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

A few local businessmen have thought beyond the former naval base and have banded with other tourism organizations of the surrounding areas. Their goal is to market the various attractions of Subic Bay Freeport, Olongapo City, and the provinces of Bataan and Zambales as one prime destination.

The businessmen are primarily composed of hoteliers, resort owners and theme park operators from the four areas, dubbed the Greater Subic Area. The campaign has been christened "Subik."

The organization, called the Greater Subic Bay Tourism Bureau (GSBTB), was formed to maximize the tourism potential of the four areas. Its first major venture is the Subik Travel Exchange Convention to be held in October and the Subik! Subik! Festival event scheduled for February next year.

"These two events represent the first salvo in our efforts to promote SUBIK as a sustainable, ecologically sound tourism and vacation haven," said GSBTB chair George Lorenzana during the launch of the GSBTB in Subic Bay Freeport two weeks ago.

Lorenzana, who owns the White Rock Resort in the town of Subic and the Mountain Woods Resort Hotel in Subic Bay Freeport, said he, along with the area’s tourism organizations and major tourism stakeholders have recognized by working together, the tourism potential in the area "could be maximized, given the synergies and the critical mass."

"We have searched for common ground that will benefit the industry and consequently, our businesses and our community," he explained.

The GSBTB list of officers is a distinguished lot of tourism movers in Greater Subic. Aside from Lorenzana, the roster includes John E. Corcoran of Ocean Adventure Cheryl M. Singson of Legend International Resorts, Gabby C. la O’ of El Kabayo Riding Stables and the representatives of the tourism councils of Zambales, Olongapo and Bataan.

To realize GSBTB’s vision, the group will establish or support campaigns and programs aimed at positioning the Greater Subic Area as a prime destination for eco-tourism, land and water sports, gourmet haven, resort center, a retirement place and convention center, among others.

Lorenzana told Malaya that while the tourism industry in Greater Subic is doing well, there is still room improvement. "We’re happy with the occupancy rates of our resorts and hotels yet we could push them further up. There’s still room for more tourists," he pointed out.

The GSBTB has created various committees to help carry out the organization’s objectives. These include committees on beautification, marketing, environment, and hotels and resorts and others. The Subic Organizing Committee will be specializing in events management and will be supervising the Subik Travel Exchange Convention and the Subik! Subik! Festival Event.

Lorenzana also explained that every project will involve each area of SUBIK. If Bataan, for instance, is celebrating a major event, an activity related to the event will be held in Subic Freeport. "It could be a sports activity or a parade," he noted.

The projects lined up will require P20 million to P30 million in funds, all of which will be sourced from corporate sponsors, Lorenzana revealed.

Aside from local tourists, the GSBTB is banking on Korean visitors to perk up arrivals. Reportedly, Korea has surpassed Japan as the biggest Asian market for Philippine tourism. Package tours are being planned for this market and GSBTB will only not only lure Koreans with such top attractions like the El Kabayo Ranch or the Ocean Adventure but also with the diving and beach resorts that can be found in Zambales and Bataan.

Corporate entities are also being enticed to hold their conventions in Greater Subic. After all, the historic APEC summit was held in Subic a decade ago. Olongapo City itself has opened its own convention center, housed in a refurbished building constructed in the late 1950s.

Even participants of the convention can take time out to visit the top attractions of the Subic. During the launch of GSBTB, a group of media practitioners was taken on a tour of various sites of Subic base, including Ocean Adventure, El Kabayo and the Safari Adventure. The three destinations alone require at least two days for visitors to fully enjoy their facilities. Coupled, with other sights in Olongapo, Zambales and Bataan, visitors would take a week to cover Greater Subic. It’s exactly what the officers of GSBTB want.

"If you really want to enjoy Greater Subic without being pressured by time limitations, then you can retire here. We’re promoting it as a haven for retirees as well," Lorenzana said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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