CLARK FREEPORT -- The multi-billion peso hotel industry here, operating on world-class standards, continues to grow with bigger infusion and better facilities, transforming the once symbol of American might into one of the best tourist destinations in the country today.
The investments poured to develop key tourism projects make this Freeport a preferred travel destination not only by local tourists but also foreign nationals.
This helps pump prime the economy in and around this former US military facility.
Among the resorts frequently visited by local and foreign tourists in Clark is Fontana Hot Springs and Leisure Parks because of its wide array of amenities such as golf courses, hot spring, water theme park, tennis and basketball courts and choice restaurants, health and spa facilities.
More than P2 billion have been spent in the improvements and renovations at Fontana. For the expansion of its convention center alone, the management of Fontana has spent P500 million just to upgrade the 1,500-seater hall just in time for the conduct of the First Senior Officials Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (SOM1 Apec) last January.
Unknown to many people, Widus Hotel and Casino is not only an exclusive hotel for Korean tourists, but also open to local and other foreigners who want to enjoy the luxury of ala-five-star hotel service at very affordable rates.
Widus is designed along the lines of a tropical resort which comprises three towers over looking the palm tree-lined swimming pool and landscaped garden blending harmoniously with the natural environment.
Its management just spent P2 billion just for the expansion project of the hotel and casino that was completed in 2013. It will be shelling out P200 million more for another expansion program set this in 2016.
Meanwhile, Oxford Hotel has also become one of the most patronized hotels in Clark after it was renovated for the SOM1 Apec meeting last January.
The new Oxford management is also bent on further improving the design and concept of the hotel to give maximum comfort, privacy and relaxation while checked-in at the hotel.
All the function rooms of the hotel are equipped with the latest and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment ideal for meetings, seminars and social events.
It has recently opened a new restaurant -- the Amare -- which is now frequented by people with discriminating tastes for culinary delights.
Oxford has spent an initial P200 million as its contribution to Clark when the Freeport needed to offer more rooms and facilities for SOM1 Apec delegates.
Pioneer hotel Holiday Inn Clark, now an institution here, is one of the best hotels not only in Pampanga but throughout Central and North Luzon.
Located inside the Mimosa Leisure Estate (Mimosa), Holiday Inn opened in Clark when the former US air base is yet to get over the stigma on the effects of Mt. Pinatubo eruption and the pull out of the American troops in the early 1990s.
Mimosa is now up for privatization where the minimum bid for the estate is pegged at P800 million while investments that should be committed is set at P5 billion.
Another booming hotel in Clark is Xenia hotel, another Korean owned firm and a subsidiary of Donggwang Clark Corporation.
The Korean firm has invested about $200 million for the 200-room hotel located at the commercial district of the Freeport.
The management of the Greek-inspired Xenia Hotel is taking advantage of the consistent robust growth in Clark annually in terms of business and tourism.
Other notable hotels include the Green Canyon Resort (GCR) at the adjoining Clark Special Economic Zone (formerly Clark Sub Zone).
Green Canyon Resort (GCR) is another ideal spot to discover serenity and nature’s beauty which convince guests to leave the noise of metropolitan traffic and degeneration of the environment.
GCR has 51 rooms, all of which exude an atmosphere of total peace and harmony. The hotel’s massage, garden, pool, children’s playground, outdoor pool are ideal places to relax and unwind after a busy day.
There’s also Hotel Stotsenberg near the Clark International Airport. It also one of the most frequented hotels here.
There are also other Korean-owned hotels such as the Lohas Hotel and Asiana Greenville which cater to foreign and local tourists.
With all the improvements, Clark Development Corporation leadership was able to get recognition from various groups and individuals from prestigious award giving bodies.
CDC president Arthur Tugade recently received an award from the SKAL International-Makati during the 25th SKAL International Tourism Personality Awards held at the Grand Ballroom of New World Makati Hotel in Makati.
Tugade was first recognized by the same organization in 2013 but respectfully declined to receive the award as he has just then started to serve as president and chief executive officer of CDC.
He humbly explained that he would rather receive the award on the basis of real and actual performance and not on the basis of a mere appointment to a position.
He told then the officers of SKAL that he would be implementing a revised tourism program for Clark that would make the Freeport one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Since then Clark has hosted series of tourism events, conventions and global business gatherings that include the successful hosting of the MICECON 4D in 2014 and the 1st Senior Officials Meeting of Asia Pacific and Economic Cooperation (SOM1 APEC) in Clark in January this year.
MICECON is a gathering of major players in the tourism industry in the Philippines while SOM1 APEC served as preparatory activity for APEC Leaders Summit this November.
CDC also renovated top tourist attractions that include the Clark Museum including the construction of 4D Theater and re-development of Parade Ground that now includes a rubberized jogging path.
In accepting the award, Tugade acknowledged the contributions of CDC officers and employees, attributing the success of Clark’s tourism programs to their efforts.
CDC management, its officials, employees and programs continue to get recognition for the past several months.
Among the recipients of the 25th SKAL International Tourism are Hans Sy for Integrated Tourism Enterprise, Dr. Mina Gabor for Sustainable Community-based Rural Tourism Development, Dr. George Yang for International Fast Food Chain, among others. (CDC Communications Department)