Confab underscores role of surfing as tourism boost

The local surfing tourism industry got a big boost as the stakeholders agreed to push for the advancement of the fast-growing water sports in the country and the fastest growing personal sports in the world.

The Department of Tourism and the Academy of Surfing Instructors Philippines recently conducted the national surfing convention at the Club Manila East Resort in Taytay, Rizal which paved the way for the introduction and subsequent development of surfing as a potent tourism product.

“The Philippines is now globally recognized as having some of the most exciting surfing sites in the world. The convention was vital engine for socio-economic growth while responsibly considering the sustainable preservation of the environment and the complete well-being of the local people in the host communities,” said Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim.

According to director Elizabeth Nelle of DOT’s Office of Product Research and Development, the meeting gave a total picture of surfing as a tourism niche market in the country vis-à-vis the rest of the surfing world.

It is in line with DOT’s overall thrust of optimizing positive as well as minimizing, if not totally preventing, negative socio-cultural, economic and ecological impacts of tourism programs and projects on the local environment and the host communities.

Some of the local surfing spots currently popular with both local and foreign surfers are the islands of Siargao in Surigao del Norte and Calicoan in Eastern Samar as well as the beaches of San Juan in La Union; San Antonio, San Narciso, San Felipe and Iba in Zambales; Baler in Aurora; Real in Quezon; Puraran in Catanduanes; Lanuza in Surigao del Sur among others.

With more than 7,107 tropical islands in the archipelago, there are still several sites yet to be explored for their surfing potential.

“During the convention, impressive revelations about surfing were presented which came as a surprise to many. A sample of these revelations included the fact that in the last two years alone no less than 7,000 surfing enthusiasts finished their individual surfing lessons – given by only three of several local surf schools – and are now active surfers. Surfing may undisputedly be the fastest growing personal sport in the world. With this scenario, we have started with the establishment of rules and regulations as well as the mechanism to rationalize and monitor the surfing industry,” Paolo Soler, ASIP chairman contends.

Based on data supplied by ASIP, the convention’s main proponent, there are over 10 million surfers in 50 countries worldwide. Of these total number, a conservative estimate of 350,000 surfers are cash-rich professionals who regularly travel mainly to surf and are always looking for more exciting surfing sites to challenge themselves.

From being worth slightly over $2.5 billion in the 1990s, surfing tourism is growing at an astonishing rate of 12 percent to 16 percent annually.

In 2009, neighboring Bali attracted some 1.7 million surfers who contributed about $2.4 million or a staggering 37 percent of Indonesia’s total tourism revenue. (philstar)

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