Restive Mayon both boon, bane for Albay businessmen
LEGAZPI CITY—Mt. Mayon’s restiveness poses both a threat and an opportunity for major hotels and businesses in Albay province.
Its eruptions have canceled flights and hotel bookings but have also attracted intrepid tourists—foreigners and Filipinos alike—and media workers.
For almost two weeks now, thousands of Mayon watchers have been trooping to Maharlika Highway in Albay, malls, hotels and public parks at night to watch and take photos of Mayon belching ash plumes and pyroclastic debris, and lava cascading down its slopes.
For various hotels operating here, sales and event bookings suffered after volcanologists raised Alert Level 3 on Jan. 13 and Alert Level 4 on Jan. 22, which meant hazardous eruption was imminent.
Hotel bookings and the holding of events were canceled largely as a result of the closure of the airport that shut down eight daily flights from Manila and Cebu, and of the fear of the dangers from Mayon’s eruptions.
Rooms all taken
At Hotel Oriental Legazpi, the cancellation of commercial flights to Manila and Cebu affected overall occupancy, but its rooms facing the volcano were all booked.
“The ‘Mayon-view’ rooms were all taken. This may be the reason why national media outlets covering the eruption are now booked here,” said the hotel manager, Jonathan de la Torre Neric.
Oriental, a four-star hotel, sits on top of a hill at Barangay Taysan. It has 115 rooms, 33 of which have a view of Mayon.
The hotel happened to offer the best venue for viewing Mayon and the city’s surroundings, according to Neric.
Neric said that since last week, visitors who had checked in totaled 1,498, including two Russians, 13 Americans and six Koreans. The rest were Filipinos.
“Overall, we assure our visitors that it is safe to stay in Albay,” said Craig Philip Ronquillo, a hotel executive.
Other hotels were not able to attract visitors the way Oriental had.
Rebecca Tejeras, an executive of Hotel Saint Ellis in Legazpi City, said the cancellation of flights had pulled down occupancy by 80 percent. The hotel has 40 rooms and a function room overlooking Mayon.
At Ninong Hotel, eight bookings were canceled because the authorities had barred flights to Bicol, said Clyde Corral, a front officer associate.
Malls, supermarkets, groceries, restaurants and other commercial establishments were expected to benefit from Mayon’s fury, as people from near and far watch the spectacle while economic activities outside the danger zone continued.
Yves Eli Yu, a businessman, said the volcano was part of Albay’s culture and way of life.
“[W]e have to take this opportunity and make the most of it. It is the only industry that could potentially lessen the economic loss of the area,” Yu said.
“Mayon certainly disrupts the normal day-to-day life of Albayanos … Of course, tourism booms because by this time the volcano has become even more attractive, a sight to behold indeed!” said Albay Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi.
Baylon said Albay residents must remember that the current state of Mayon was its regular “house cleaning” schedule, which comes every eight to 10 years. —REPORTS FROM MAR S. ARGUELLES, MA. APRIL MIER, MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN AND REY ANTHONY OSTRIA IN ALBAY; AND JULIE M. AURELIO IN MANILA
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