ESSAY: Philippines ranked 6th in Lonely Planet’s top 10 best value destinations for 2011

Philippines, ranked 6th in Lonely Planet’s top 10 best value destinations for 2011.

This, according to Lonely Planet in an article here.

To quote: The Philippines may be just about to rudely shove Thailand off the ‘best cheap beaches’ perch it’s occupied for the best part of two decades. For those who desire nothing more than to find great, undiscovered beaches, surf the odd wave and eat unique, distinctive food for under US$20 a day, the Philippines has the edge.

I agree that there are lots of beautiful places to see in the Philippines, and not just the beaches, many of which are still undiscovered.

Up north in the Cordillera, for example, there are spectacular mountain views for those who like to go hiking. And the northwestern coast of Luzon, from Pangasinan, to La Union, all of Ilocos (Sur and Norte), all the way to the northernmost tip of Cagayan, are dotted with beaches, eating places, baroque churches, bahay-na-bato, lighthouses and other remnants of our Spanish colonial history. Best traveled by private car, to allow frequent stopovers in various coastal towns, and side-trips to interesting towns further inland.

And down south, the beaches in the Visayas are already world famous. While I was doing a series of brochures for a German NGO that does community development in Mindanao, I also learned about tourism development in Cotabato, and a transportation network being put in place that will link Mindanao with neighboring countries Brunei and Eastern Malaysia via RORO, bus and air. That’s definitely going into my future travel plans!

Our country is an amazing travel destination. But we need to improve many of our supporting services in order to attract more visitors. We also need to plan ahead to protect our resources before the influx of tourists.

First is transportation. I love how Cebu Pacific has given us an affordable way to travel by air across the country. Perhaps they can do better by offering a discounted fare package, an open ticket for a given number of destinations and valid for 1 year for example. They can create a package that allows surfing enthusiasts to travel from one beach in Luzon to other beaches in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Perhaps our bus companies can follow the same open ticket scheme. One ticket going to Ilocos Norte, where a passenger can get off or on as many times as he wants in any town along the route. I learned about this scheme when I was doing research for my Vietnam trip. I thought it was a great idea and I cannot imagine why that should be impossible to do here.

(To be continued)