CENTRAL Luzon tourism industry has managed to survive the debilitating onslaught by posting a still modest positive growth in terms of visitor arrivals in 2009 as compared to that of 2008, a tourism official said.

Department of Tourism-Central Luzon Regional Director Ronaldo Tiotuico said amid the unfortunate chain of events that took place in the year 2009 - from the outbreak of H1N1 virus around the world, the global financial crisis that triggered a slowdown in world economy, the threat of a global environmental crisis due to climate change, and the widespread devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila - the tourism industry survived.

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Based on the figures submitted by a number of hotel accommodation facilities around the region, the total visitor arrivals in the seven (7) provinces summed up to 550,277 arrivals in 2009 as compared to 530,802 in 2008 or an increase of 3.67 percent.

The year 2008, compared to 2007, was even a better performance as the total arrivals rose from 427,364 to 530,802 or an increase of 24.20 percent.

These figures represent the total number of travelers of Filipino nationality and that of foreign nationality.

Filipino domestic tourists in the region stood at 395,189 while travelers of foreign nationality stood at 151,228. They all stayed at least one overnight in various accommodation facilities in the provinces of Pampanga or Angeles City and Zambales or Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo City in particular.

These figures indicate that domestic tourism is still the backbone of the industry. The figures above are a reflection of what the region offers in terms of tourist facilities and amenities which any visitor may take advantage of.

For one, Clark in Pampanga is known for its quality and world-class amenities with globally-acceptable room accommodation facilities to make one's stay most pleasant. This goes true for Subic Bay Freeport, which boasts of equally standard-class amenities and nature-based attractions that gives visitors a wide range of choices to suit one's needs.

Of the total arrivals, the largest population of foreign visitors comes from the United States at 29,074, followed by Japan at 12,437 and South Koreans at 7,674. It is common knowledge that Americans and Japanese visit the country for sentimental reasons such as wanting to meet their relatives and friends. Koreans, on the other hand, visit the country to learn English as a second language as a matter of priority.

The persistent strength of domestic travel throughout the country is duly attributed to the so-called holiday economics where Filipinos plan their vacation ahead of time targeting mostly those long weekends.

As most domestic travelers to the region come from Metro Manila, the full completion and seamless complementation between the North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressways augured well for the transformation of the Northern Luzon regions (Central Luzon, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordilleras) as a favorite destination. Now, more than ever, land travel has never been this easy.

Meanwhile, Central Luzon has its own share of international tourist arrivals with the growing presence of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark.

Of the county's total foreign visitor arrivals at more than three million in 2009, some 10 percent or a total of 331,445 visitors arrived via DMIA based on reports of international carriers, thus making this airport the third largest port of entry next only to NAIA and Cebu. Air Asia (Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu) garnered the biggest haul of tourists at 87,899 passengers, while Cebu Pacific (Hong Kong and Bangkok) hauled in a total of 80,515 passengers and Tiger Airways (Singapore) checked in at 69,083 passengers.

With the continuing support of Clark Development Corporation, Clark International Airport Corporation, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, including the region's private sector partners like Central Luzon Tourism Council, Alliance of Travel and Tour Agencies of Pampanga, Pampanga Agents Travel Society, Hotels and Restaurants in Pampanga and the Manila North Tollways Corporation, Central Luzon will continue to be the forerunner in the development of travel and tourism in the region. (PR)