Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia is pushing for the establishment of a strong balikbayan program for the city and to position Bacolod as the convention city of the Visayas to boost its tourism industry.
Leonardia said he brought up the plan, which he hopes the Tourism Council of Bacolod would focus on, during his meeting with its members yesterday.
He asked the Tourism Council how they can intensify the tourism industry in Bacolod, with the two major factors it has, he said.
These are the hospitable nature of Bacoleños, and the presence of so many hotels which he believes are competitive with hotels in the Visayas, he added.
Leonardia said they would like to take advantage of these two factors to push their drive to position Bacolod City as the convention city of the Visayas.
He also said they would like to establish a strong balikbayan program that will make an inventory of Bacoleños now based all over the world.
“I believe this is a very big market and we are looking at it not just from a purely tourism aspect, but more importantly, to rekindle the spirit of camaraderie and the spirit of being family in Bacolod City,” he said.
Leonardia said he believes balikbayans are a very big potential and they would like to instill and keep alive in them love for and pride in Bacolod.
He said he would also like the Tourism Council to focus on maximizing the presence of Koreans in Bacolod.
“Even if they just stay for a month or two, I believe that could still be a big advantage for us because they help stir the economy. And if we are be able to make them comfortable and make their stay as productive and memorable as possible, they can become our ambassadors of goodwill, and eventually, our tourism promoters when they go back to Korea,” Leonardia said.
Meanwhile, Leonardia met with officials of Aklan and Roxas City during the weekend when he made his annual personal pilgrimage to Kalibo.
He said Aklan Governor Lito Marquez and Rep. Joven Miraflores seem to be the best team he has ever seen, and he hopes their partnership will serve as an example to others.
Leonardia said the growth of Aklan has been spectacular because of its tourism industry.
When Marquez became governor in 2004 the budget of Aklan was about P300 million, but today it is almost a billion, which made it the number three province in Western Visayas next to Negros Occidental and Iloilo, he said.
Leonardia said he would like to establish a close relationship with the province of Aklan.
He said they can also learn a lesson or two from Boracay, with the connection they have with its mayor, John Yap.
Leonardia said he also met with Roxas Mayor Allan Selino and Rep. Tony Del Rosario during a planning session they held with their governor and Judy Araneta-Roxas, the mother of Senator Mar Roxas, for the development of Capiz.
He believes it will be for the best interest of the Western Visayas if local officials are friends and are coordinating with each other, he also said.*CGS