Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Thursday led the launching of a P50-million campaign to market and position Iloilo as a premier MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) destination in the country.
The launching of “Meet you in Iloilo” campaign aims to draw more tourists, business visitors and exhibitors to one of the most developed and livable cities in the country, Iloilo City, promoting it as a premier MICE hub.
“Our efforts to market and position Iloilo as a premier MICE destination officially begins today,” Drilon announced.
“The lauching of Iloilo as a MICE hub will surely open more opportunities for Iloilo to further boost its tourism industry, drive investments and development, and create jobs.This partnershipwill significantly contribute to the economy and in the process, improve the lives of our people,” Drilon said.
The P50-million campaign includes a basket of incentives, promotions and related tourism packages in partnership with various tourism stakeholders.
Promoting Iloilo as a MICE center is expected to contribute significantly to the province and the entire region’s development.
Iloilo has contributed significantly to the attainment of Western Visayas of it’s high Regional Gross Domestic Product growth rates in the last five years. The region’s GDP grew by 9.4% in 2015; 8.4% in 2016; 10.4% in 2017; and 6.1% in 2018.
Iloilo’s hospitality industry is also booming as the tourist arrivals in the province has doubled in the last five years, from 627,000 in 2013 to 1.24 million in 2018, according to Drilon.
Drilon said he is confident that the campaign will succeed, saying that Iloilo has all the makings of an excellent MICE destination.
“It is one of the few cities in the country that could host large-size conventions such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Association of Southeast Asian Nations summits,” Drilon said.
In 2017 and 2018, Iloilo hosted a total of 46,000 participants in various meetings, conventions, trade fairs and exhibits. And for the first half of 2019, the Iloilo Convention Center was host to almost 80,000 MICE participants, he added.
“It has a strategic and accessible location – Iloilo has major connections to domestic destinations and direct links to Singapore and Hong Kong,” Drilon.
He, however, noted the need to extend the runway of the Iloilo International Airport to accommodate bigger aircrafts from Japan, Korea, and China, and expand the terminal building to accommodate morearrivals.
“I have no doubt that, together, we will succeed in this endeavor. For we have a story to tell. And, tourism, I have learned, is how well you tell your story,” Drilon said.
From a city of diminishing economic appeal, Drilon recalled stories of how Iloilo worked its way to become an attractive and investment destination.
In less than a decade, a lot of infrastructure and tourism facilities were put up in Iloilo, including a world class convention center; an 8-kilometer Esplanade, the longest linear park in the country; the 10-lane, 15-km Sen. Benigno Aquino Avenue; and the 4-lane President Corazon Aquino circumferential road, among others.
Its campaign to clean and rehabilitate the Iloilo River, initiated by Drilon, was also a success, earning it a Galing Pook Award in 2018 and as a finalist in the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize in 2013.
The Iloilo is also home to four museums including the country’s first Museum of Philippine Economic History, Drilon added.
The construction of the P11.2-billion mega dam, the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project, the biggest dam outside of Luzon, is also ongoing. The project will irrigate 33,000 hectares of rice land, double the income of 25,000 farmer families, and provide 800 hectares of water reservoir for irrigation and power generation.
To improve Iloilo’s appeal and readiness as the country’s MICE hub, a number of projects are in the pipeline, including, among others, the restoration of heritage buildings along Calle Real similar to what the government did in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and the restoration of the Iloilo Customs House, or Aduana, where two museums – the museum of the Philippine Maritime History and a war museum – will be put up.
Drilon also acknowledged the need to build new tourism facilities that could host domestic and international events.
The national government has also committed to build the Iloilo-Guimaras Bridge by 2023, he noted. (senate.gov.ph)