[PHOTO AT LEFT - Arriving passengers from South Korea cram the immigration area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for the processing of their papers. Five flights from South Korea arrive at the NAIA daily. – Photo By RUDY SANTOS]

MANILA, FEBRUARY 28, 2007 (STAR) With the onset of "Tourism Negosyo" in the country, Ariel Jersey and Jay Aldeguer boosted the promotion of the country’s tourist destinations, culture and festivities by highlighting the very best of the country’s interiors.

Jersey, who produces travel maps and Aldeguer, who founded a chain of trendy souvenir shops, will be acknowledged as two of the Most Inspiring Tourism Entrepreneurs during the Go Negosyo Turismo Expo, slated on March 2-4 at the SM Mall of Asia.

The awarding ceremony will be led by President Arroyo and Presidential Consultant for Entrepreneurship and Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) president Jose Concepcion III.

Jersey began as a laborer at William Golangco Construction Corp., which built the former Wurtsmith Elementary School and that now houses the Fontana Leisure Park, and being a Gun Club Instructor and Recreation Assistant at the former Clark Air Base’s Skeet and Trap Range. He was even one of those responsible for the Philippine Shooting Team’s gold victories in both team and individual events during the 1991 Southeast Asian Games.

Unfortunately, the disastrous eruption of Mt. Pinatubo brought an unexpected hiatus in his career as he became one of the displaced former base workers in Pampanga.

However, Jersey did not stop pursuing his dreams of a better life. He later became a programmer, a graphic artist and a system analyst. He volunteered in the Rudolf Steiger Foundation that catered mass-based sports programs. Jersey was also hired by the Intelligent Manufacturing Co., Inc. a shoe manufacturing company where he earned the privilege to design the shoes of former Ms. Universe Dayanara Torres, Tingting Cojuangco and Mikee Cojuangco.

Things got bigger for the simple dreamer from Sorsogon when in 1995, together with Charlie Kemplin and the late Mike Dunne, Jersey established the United Tourist Promotions (UTP). Producing tourist brochures in areas with large concentrations of tourists and expatriates, UTP was commissioned by the Department of Tourism to produce a series of 60 promotional brochures entitled "Best of the Islands." In 1996, the Philippine Convention and Visitors’ Corp. (PCVC) appointed UTP to produce tourist and street maps of selected areas in the country for the delegates of the global meet Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

UTP began developing its own series of publications under the trade name EZ Maps in 1997. Two years after, the first edition of the EZ Philippines Travel Atlas was published with the support of the regional directors of the Department of Tourism. The EZ Philippines Travel Atlas featured the latest, comprehensive information on the country’s 16 regions, with detailed city street maps, useful contact information, and specialty maps showing festivals, historical and religious sites.

Today, EZ maps have become the best-selling map series in the country.

Aldeguer was once a frustrated artist, whose love for a greater entrepreneurial voyage began when he was backpacking around Europe after graduating at the Ateneo de Manila University. He remembered buying all sorts of souvenirs in all of the places he visited. But as his heavy bags became too much of a burden, he decided to purchase souvenir T-shirts instead because "they were lighter and more practical." Prior to this, he had already been selling colored T-shirts to his fellow students in Ateneo.

His idea of eventually selling souvenir shirts happened when he became disappointed in one of his many trips at Mines View Park in Baguio City. "For a premier destination, it only offers the giant spoon and fork," he said, referring to the T-shirt he got as a souvenir from the summer capital. This incident embedded an indelible mark in his quest for more "fulfilling" excursions through memorable mementos to keep.

So, at the age of 21, with an initial capitalization of P200,000 that he got from his earnings in college and from his parents, he established Island Souvenirs in 1992. With a P1,500 bamboo cart, Aldeguer began selling shirts at the White Gold department store in Cebu.

Through Aldeguer’s creative perspectives, Island Souvenirs became known for products that highlight the unique oddities of local travelers. For instance, Boracay visitors always look forward to their waterproof plastic bags that are very convenient in keeping their cellular phones even while enjoying the cool waters in the ocean.

"The souvenir industry is an old industry with the proliferation of shops around the world," Aldeguer notes. "Our dream is to be that brand," he states confidently. Given that Philippine tourism, which attracts millions of tourists a year, Aldeguer still sees further growth for his business locally. "We still have the advantage to create our position against the rest of the world," he says.

In 1999, the first Islands Souvenir international outlet was opened in Okinawa, Japan. After a year, he has also opened stores in Singapore and San Francisco, California. This year, he ventured to the former Portuguese enclave of Macau.

Due to his continuous success on the Islands Souvenir chains, Jay Aldeguer was awarded as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men award for entrepreneurship at age 27 —the youngest so far in the TOYM roster. Island Souvenirs has also been named "Outstanding Filipino Retailer" by the Philippine Retailers Association and the Department of Trade and Industry several times that Aldeguer was actually inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2003. He has also established Pasalubong Centers, one-stop shops for pasalubong to bring home to their family and friends, a magazine that extols many beautiful attractions of Cebu, Cebu TV, a cable channel setup under Destinations Media Inc. that highlights people, lifestyle, events and destinations in Cebu and Bohol and Escape, an events company set up to complement the tourism promotion efforts of his other businesses.

"Filipinos have what it takes to be great," Aldeguer reminds all Pinoy dreamers who want to have the most exciting journeys of their lives. indeed just lie ahead, waiting for another trip in sight.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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