Former Bacolod Rep. John Orola was appointed Tuesday as interim chairman of the Tourism Council of Bacolod City, Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leronardia said yesterday.
Orola was a former tourism attache to Osaka, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Leonardia said the council discussed the balikbayan program, the Koreans tourists, and conventions to boost the city’s tourism industry during its meeting Tuesday.
He said the balikbayan program is a very big market that is just waiting to be tapped. Other towns, smaller than Bacolod have been successful in coming up with fiestas to lure balikbayans, he added.
Leonardia said, “Our MassKara Festival can entice balikbayans to come home and help implement the tourism campaign slogan ‘Bring home a friend,’ by bringing Filipino or foreign visitors to the city.
For balikbayans who cannot make it in October, the Chinese new year or BacoLaodiat Festival, is an alternative occasion, he said. “It is a continuing program that should connect us to all Bacolodnons abroad,” he added.
Leonardia said they also discussed the best practices of local government units and, during the meeting, cited that there are 1,600 LGU’s all over the Philippines and hundreds of their officials already come to Bacolod.
He said this is a field where Bacolod has a distinct advantage because of its titles like the Most Business Friendly City, the Most Child Friendly City, Most Disabled Friendly City, etc, and because of infrastructures like the slaughterhouse, relocation site, sanitary landfill, and even the government center.
Leonardia said these are attractions to local governments and this is a big market because, when they come, they come in big groups which has a big impact on the transportation and hotel industry.
“We have to focus on this because this it is like a gold mine that needs to be explored,” he said.
Leonardia also told the Tourism Council that, recently, almost 50 percent of foreign arrivals in Bacolod are Koreans, which is largely because there are students who come to study English.
“There is a need for us to have an education campaign, so when the Koreans come here they will have a pleasant, rewarding, memorable experience and when they return to Korea, they will be the ambassadors of goodwill of Bacolod,” he said.
Leonardia said Bacolod has two major factors which he believes are decisive in positioning Bacolod City as a convention center in Western Visayas.
He said Bacoleños by heart are hospitable and the city already has the facilities.
In the Western Visayas, with the exception of Boracay, Bacolod has the most number of hotel rooms, the rates of which are comparatively cheaper than those of other cities, Leonardia said.
“If we can properly organize the convention industry in Bacolod that will be a big boost to our tourism industry. We will support a project that will set up a big convention center that can answer the needs for conventions by the thousands,” he said.*CGS