tourism

More Sports Bubbles Needed

June 22, 2021

Put yourself in the bubble in Clark and you will burst out giddy-head and elated.  Brilliant Gilas! Brilliant SBP! Brilliant Clark! Apart from clinching the top position in its group in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers, Gilas now moves ahead not only into the Asian Cup but also having a go at qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics that starts next month. Our magnificent boys fly off to Belgrade (June 29 to July 4) where they shall take on Serbia and the Dominican Republic. The top two teams here qualify for the Tokyo Games which starts on July 23. Onward future Olympians! As I write this column, most of the six visiting teams would have left the bubble in Clark, not without first acknowledging the excellent organization of the 5-day Asian qualifiers. The bubble set up was so ideal that the two qualifiers, China and the Philippines, have decided to extend their stay and treat it as an intensive training ground for their upcoming tournaments. In the midst of this, they will play two tune up friendlies against each other within five days. During the Asian Cup Qualifiers, over 200 players and 25 FIBA officials made up the foreign arrival lists at The Quest Hotel in Clark. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive staff, national delegates and medical teams gingerly filled up the remainder of the hotel's 300 plus rooms. With over 300 guests in the hotel on full board over a 5-day period, sports tourism is indeed well and alive in Clark. In spite of the ban on spectators, still other hotels in the Freeport also benefitted from the tournament. Hotel Lohas accommodated the Smart/PLDT party, TV5 crew and other ancillary staff. The bubble strictly requires all hotel staff, AUF personnel and drivers to be fully locked in too so they too had to be RT PCR tested and swab tested daily. If anyone leaves the bubble, he or she is not allowed in again. This FIBA Asia Cup qualifier is by no means a Steven Spielberg production, but the cast of over 700 from drivers, janitors, waiters to FIBA officials and our Asian hoop stars, proved that sports development can be attained inspite of the pandemic. And sports events with local and foreign participants can be held with meticulously strict health protocols and willing partners. It only takes two to bubble. In Europe, 12 cities are currently hosting Euro 2020 with crowds from 12,000 to 60,000 allowed in different sized stadiums around the continent. Twelve bubbles created with each nation imposing their own health protocols, following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The finals will be played at Wembley London on July 12th. This year's mega bubble is, of course, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. No less than 12,000 athletes from over 200 countries will compete to be the world's best - COVID or no COVID. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese host organization have stated that they have prepared to the best of their ability for the Games to go on after a year's torturous delay, with tens of million of dollars already lost in ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandizing, hotel room sales, airline tickets and tours, amongst many others. The Olympiad begins on July 23 and athletes have already arrived in Tokyo for acclimatization. Foreign spectators are banned from attending the Olympics to minimize the fear of spreading the virus.  Athletes are not allowed to leave the Games Village located at the Tokyo Bayside except to compete at the games venues. No big inter-cultural exchange deals.  Considering what has so tragically happened, a Games as so tailored as what will be happening in Tokyo, is certainly better than no Games at all. Our athletes, over a dozen now, with a few more to be added on hopefully in the coming weeks, will give full testament when they return. They will all have fulfilled a dream so many others could dream on in good or bad times. As travel restrictions are easing up (although we have yet to see much), sports across the country should be encouraged to form the bubbles for trouble free events. It only needs a sports association, local or national, and the local government unit to work together during this pandemic period. Good for sports; good for tourism. Cagayan, you are next.

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Mount Everest : China reaches new heights of ridicule

May 24, 2021

Ostensibly not satisfied with claiming our shoals in the Spratleys, Scarborough and elsewhere in the South China Seas and West Philippine Seas, China has declared they will lay claim to one section of the summit at Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848.86 meters or 29,032 feet.  Am I joking or instigating an issue in my Sino-bashing agenda? Obviously not, as I am only quoting the news wires from  Associated Press and Reuters. It came as a disbelief for me as well as the 4,000 who have summited Mt Everest. The reaction became one of condemnation, and rightly so.  I can surmise what my favorite Foreign Secretary, Ted Locsin will tell the Chinese if he is a mountaineer. China, who has access to Mt Everest through their questionable takeover of Tibet, shares the Himalayas mountain range from the north side through Tingri, Shigatse Prefecture in Tibet  - oops, sorry, I mean, Xixang. The standing space at the peak of the world's highest mountain is barely the size of a table good for, at most, six persons according to friends of mine who have summitted. Most climbers will attest that you will be "near death" when you reach the peak, with the lack of oxygen, all your energy spent and the "Mama, I love you" frame of mind. In that condition, will you be tolerant of anyone telling you that you cannot stand on this side of the peak simply because it does not belong to Nepal? Ridicule at its highest. All a climber wishes to do, once upon summitting, is to take on a 360-degree view of the world, pose for a selfie with your Sherpa guide or group, hold your country flag, say a little prayer and, pronto,  "Mama, I'm coming home." On descending, many never made it home alive. This year already two climbers have died. Dr Puwei Lui (55), an American, died while attempting to the top while Swiss national, Abdul Waraich (41) collapsed on the way down to the lower camps after summiting. This very week, my friend Swee Chiow Khoo is preparing his ascend to a neighboring south peak, Lhotse which is 8, 516m high and is the fourth highest peak in the world. He posted having met Dr Lui at Base Camp weeks ago and became dinner buddies for days. One fine evening, they were having such a great conversation, the next day Lui was gone - for good. Bless this mountaineering scientist from Connecticut. Swee Chiow, 57,  has made three successful ascents to Everest (1998, 2006 and 2011) and is the first Southeast Asian to climb K2, the more difficult mountain to conquer. Around 5,500 climbers have ascended Mt Everest but only 400 have summited K2. An average of 5 climbers die each year since Sir Edmund Hilary and his Nepalese guide,  Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquered Everest in1953. The morbid tale is that half of the 300 bodies throughout these years were never brought down; never found.    The absurd reason that has forced China to contemplate on drawing a "separation line" on the peak of Everest is to prevent climbers from their side being infected with coronavirus by climbers ascending from the Nepal side. Beijing says they will send their team of Tibetan mountaineering guides to mark their side of the peak. How it will be done and how it will be enforced is not clear. Another Great Wall, perhaps?  According to an  AP report, a mountaineering doyen, Ang Tshering Sherpa states that it is simply not possible to draw any kind of separation on the Everest summit.  "The idea that anyone with coronavirus could even reach the summit is impossible because climbers with respiratory difficulties will just not be able to reach that altitude." Sherpa said. The window period to ascend Everest and the neighboring peaks is from late April to May each year. This Spring, Nepal granted 408 permits for the climb as against 21 by the Chinese. In my humble opinion, it would more credible for the Chinese to cancel the 21 permits in the interest of health and safety than to draw that ludicrous line.  I wish my friend, Swee Chiow a safe climb up Lhotse this week. He had a few scary moments during his acclimatization weeks ago but I have so much confidence in him as he is the fourth person in the world to complete The Explorers Grand Slam, that is the North Pole, South Pole and the top Seven Summits of the world. He is well prepared for this climb, a difficult one by any standards, as the last 300 meters to the summit is a steep ice.  Swee Chiow has participated in my Sports Tourism Forum as a motivational speaker and was last here as guest of Mayor Felipe Remollo of Dumaguete City in 2018. Dear to us in the Philippines, Swee Chiow, paddled in a kayak from Sarangani in the south to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte in 88 days covering 3,205 kilometers, cutting across 50 provinces in 2009. Certainly, he and thousands of mountaineers throughout the world will not tolerate this Chinese nonsense of claiming part of the peak of Everest and putting the safety and health of the climbers at stake.

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Privatization of Sports Facilities

May 16, 2021

In less than 70 days, barring any calamitous and uncontrollable surge of COVID cases in Japan, the Tokyo Olympics will be declared open on July 23, 2021, after a delay of one year. Athletes, coaches, games officials from no less than 200 countries will be descending on Tokyo. Fifteen thousand sportsmen and women are expected to compete, nay, celebrate the true Olympic spirit with emotions never seen in the history of the Olympiad,  In certitude, we shall hold our breath for a good 14 days, while organizers, Japanese host cities, the International Olympic Council (IOC), a host of other organizations, complete the programs one day at a time, amidst the strictest health protocols ever.  At present no overseas spectators will be allowed in the stadia to watch the Games. And that's final. Prior to the Olympics, another significant sports spectacle will be happening halfway around the world  - Euro 2020. Like the Tokyo Olympics, this monumental event, primarily to be hosted by Britain, will kick off from June 11 to July 11, 2021. European football will take center stage and will keep Asian eyes glued to the telly up to the early mornings, from China to Indonesia to Australia.  Here at home, and at Clark to be precise, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP)  will stage the FIBA Asia  Cup qualifiers from June 16 to 30 in a strict bubble situation. Sports tourism in the Philippines will be on a sparkle, even briefly, thanks to the efforts of the amazing SBP team inspired by its former Chairman and  Sports Tourism Personality of the Year Awardee, Manny V. Pangilinan, its president, Al Panlilio. Despite the worldwide pandemic, SBP won the bid to host an impressive assemblage of teams from Japan, China, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Guam. The qualifiers will, no doubt, thrill millions of Filipinos for an interesting fortnight. Clark will again shine as an established sports tourism destination. Back to Japan for the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5, 2021 - only if things have gone well with the earlier Summer Olympics. The Japanese host cities, organizers, the IOC would have scored their own performances in hosting Tokyo 2020 before welcoming the Paralympics. A  reality yet to be seen. Other mega events lined up in quick succession next year will be the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, Asian Games 2022 also to be held in China (Hangzhou), the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022. While we may have around a dozen Filipinos qualified for Tokyo, hundreds more are already preparing for the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in November this year. The Philippines have crowned champions in the 2019 SEA Games and we are determined to prove it wasn't a fluke. A strong showing, landing in second or third this year, would already call for a huge celebration. Reflecting on the training of our athletes, so dismally interrupted by the epidemic, I can fully understand the plight and desperation of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) in conjuring schedules of athletes and coaches alike during the last year.  I had suggested in an earlier column upgrading the PSC to a bone fide ministry of sports and the reaction was a big resounding - yes! Let's hope that our planners and leaders can see gold, silver, bronze in this move. Include Youth in this ministry and you will have the dream Department of Youth and Sports. As we marvel at the venues and host cities of all the above games, year after year after year, I conclude that we will never win a bid to host a multi-sport event such as the SEA Games or Asian Games in Cebu in the next couple of decades. I have studied in my advocacy for sports tourism and the creation of sports cities for many long years, and am amazed at how some sports complexes around the world,  have been privatized by their local governments or sports organizations to become successful monuments and institutions. We encounter, in almost every city in the Philippines, the poor state of sports facilities due to sheer neglect and poor management. More often than not, the issue would be a lack of funds and completely no comprehension of standards. Would privatization be the answer? I have lived through privatization of hotels, parks, airports, starting with Cebu, then Clark, soon Bulacan, Davao, Bohol, quite a few more. Our express roadways and skyways, sprouting and connecting north, south, east, west of Manila are again classic examples of build, operate, transfer agreements. Will there be willing takers to invest in the Pelaez Sports Complex in Cagayan de Oro? I strongly believe so. It involves complete renovation for both the oval, football field, tennis courts, swimming pool, other indoor facilities.  It may not be the New Clark City or the Philippine Arena, but it will do Mindanaoans proud. Sports management companies based in Europe and Australia have branched out into Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, India. Foreign funding has also come into the Philippines to establish football clubs like the United City FC, dominating the Philippine Football League and sending hopes of credible rankings in the Asian football scene. In basketball, major global entities are involved in the forthcoming FIBA World Cup to be staged here in the Philippines in 2023. Specialized sports venue management companies with strong marketing expertise and sponsorship support could innovate all parties concerned. We have witnessed the dynamic transformation and growth of the Mactan airport under the GMR Megawide management. LIPAD has taken on Clark International Airport, the consortium of Dennis Uy is to handle Davao and  Aboitiz will operate the airport in Panglao, Bohol.  Why not our sports facilities?  Privatization has always resulted in proper funding, professionalism in management, sound marketing, improved training skills for employees, financial viability, most, importantly, less bureaucracy. Cities will not lose pride nor ego when they privatize. It will be the reverse; they may see themselves in a partnership or in a naming rights agreement with super-brands like Nike, Adidas, Emirates, Qatar, Allianz, AIA, Rolex, Shell, Toyota, Canon, Red Bull, Milo, BMW, the like. It all evolves as to how serious local governments are in creating their cities into accredited and recognizable host cities for tourism, sports, conventions, events, boosting its economy and image.  In some countries, exclusive golf clubs are provisioned to allow their courses to be venue hosts for up to a certain number of days a year to accommodate the staging of tournaments. I am sure our golfers in membership clubs here can sacrifice two or three weekends a year to boost sports tourism and the economy in their city and, to their amazement, benefit from watching golf pros from around the world compete in their very own (backyard) greens. These may be provoking thoughts today but, generally, it's progressively happening around us. The question is when will it happen here? Charles Lim is the founder and chairman of the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards. He has been an advocate of sports tourism since 2004 with the inception of the Sports Tourism Forum - a popular seminar for those in the sports and tourism industries - which is currently still ongoing. He can be reached at charles.selrahco@gmail.com.

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EUROPE'S SUPER FLOP LEAGUE

April 26, 2021

Throughout my years in the UK in the 70s, every single Premier League game I watched was a sheer life time experience - and I would have watched at least 50 of them even in their previous Division One glory.  It wasn't just the excitement of the game; the results; or seeing my football idols of my teenage years, it was a lot more than that. It was the unique English football culture which is so hard to explain. Whenever, I proudly stride into a stadium, be it  Wembley, Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane, Elland Road, or Villa Park, there was this feeling of awe as I watch tens of thousands of English football fans fill up every seat available, weekend after weekend and on week nights, during a home match in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. It's the mystique of football club tradition, dating back centuries in the form of the chants, the club songs, the paraphernalia proudly worn by fans of different generations that would surely stir you. It's almost, to use an emphatic phrase, a tribal ritual. The sentiment then, I gathered,  was loud and clear - THIS IS OUR CLUB; NOBODY CAN TAKE IT AWAY FROM US. Yet, a week ago, out of sheer greed, owners of six English Premier League (EPL) clubs announced they will organize the European Super League (ESL) without consultations with their managers, players and fans. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool - all owned by foreign investors - had joined Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Atletico Madrid in what the newly appointed ESL President Florentino Perez, president of  Real Madrid, cynically claimed, "to save football." Ugh? Within 48 hours of the announcement of the ESL, all six of the English clubs meekly withdrew from the League amidst backlash from fans from, not only the six clubs but all 20 teams of the EPL, with strongest condemnation from former players and managers  and the all-powerful, English FA , followed by  a  blistering attack by the  Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the British government, threatening legislature in Britain to make the ESL non-profitable should it push through.  It was basically a battle between the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) and ESL as the new league will compete directly with the current Champions League. Interestingly, no club from the German Bundesliga - Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig  and the likes nor  from France - Paris St Germain, Lille and Monaco, the current leaders signified any interest in joining. Germany has a law that prohibits majority foreign ownership of the clubs. The fans are happy. The ESL, now a total flop after 48 hours, would have a fixed league of 20 teams across Europe, competing yearly, without prior qualifications as against the present Champions League with 32 teams which has reached an interesting final stage by next month.  Proponents of the ESL were hoping to reap in billions through television rights a la the National Football League (NFL), NBA or Major League Baseball (MLB) as in the US. But, alas, British football fans are not Yankees nor Bulls. The controversy has not died down as ESL President  Perez insists that the League is on "standby" and the English clubs have a contract and "cannot leave." At the other end of the field, fans throughout England especially from the 6 ESL teams, are demanding blood. See, what I said about their tribalistic behavior?  They want all the owners to leave; put the clubs up for sale and vamoose into thin air.  Fortunately, fans are not allowed into the stadiums due to this pandemic when the EPL matches are still being played. Nevertheless, any inkling of the presence of owners at the games, will gather thousands of them parading outside the grounds demanding that they take their money back to America, Saudi Arabia, Russia or wherever. We are British. This is football. This is our game. Things are unravelling by the day. The Manchester United  executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward is stepping down by the end of the season. The remaining majority 14 clubs in the EPL are contemplating a motion to outvote the 6 rogue clubs out the league and with hefty fines. UEFA too has blown the whistle for a penalty. Already offers are coming in: Sportify wants to buy Arsenal. Fans, by the tens of thousands are looking at shares to  buy out, the owners have been red-carded. The British media has lambasted the owners' decision as pure greed, elitist and totally a betrayal of the trust the fans and club have given them.  UEFA  and FIFA have announced they will ban players from playing for their country if they participate in the ESL. This is the cringer and my sympathy go to the players. This will affect hundreds of the creme de la creme from all continents on earth now playing in Europe. UEFA Vs ESL : the game goes into extra time. Charles Lim is the founder and chairman of the Philippines Sports Tourism Awards. He has been an advocate of sports tourism since 2004 with the inception of the Sports Tourism Forum - a popular seminar for those in the sports and hospitality industries - which is presently still ongoing. He can be reached at charles.selrahco@gmail.com.       

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Cebu Pacific solidifies Australia presence with strong performance of new Melbourne route

March 25, 2019

The Philippines’ largest carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB) continues to grow its presence in Australia, on the back of improved bookings following the launch of its Melbourne route in August 2018. As of November 2018, data from Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) showed that Cebu Pacific alone flew a total of 18,971 passengers between Manila, Melbourne and Sydney—up 56% from the same month in 2017. A total of 48,064 passengers travelled between Manila, Melbourne and Sydney on direct connections mounted by Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Qantas in November 2018, up 31.3% year-on-year. For this month, CEB passengers comprised 39.5%; while PAL garnered a 38.1% share. Qantas, however, operates direct service only between Manila and Sydney.   The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics is an agency under Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. Its mandate is to provide economic analysis, research and statistics on infrastructure, transport and regional development issues for the Australian Government.     “We have an average market share of about 40% for our Melbourne and Sydney routes. We are pleased with the strong reception in Melbourne for Cebu Pacific, and excited that the ‘CEB Effect’ of year-round low fare offerings, coupled with our promotions, provide opportunities to visit the  Philippines,” said Candice Iyog, Vice President for Marketing at Cebu Pacific.    Cebu Pacific flies five times weekly between Manila and Sydney; and thrice a week between Manila and Melbourne. Since the launch of CEB’s Melbourne route last August 14, 2018, capacity between Philippines and these two cities in Australia has increased 32%, and passenger volume grew 31%.  Cebu Pacific is the only Low Cost Carrier with direct service from Manila to Sydney and Melbourne. Fares on CEB are as much as 60% lower than prevailing fares of other airlines flying the same route.     The BITRE report noted that the expansion of Low Cost Carriers—including Cebu Pacific, have helped ramp-up tourist arrivals into Australia. According to Tourism Australia, from January to November 2018, a total of 140,700 tourists from the Philippines visited Australia, up 11.7% year-on-year. Data from the Philippines’ Department of Tourism also show that Australia is also one of the top sources of tourist arrivals in the Philippines, with close to 243,000 Australians visiting the country for the same 11-month period—up almost four percent, as the country gains popularity as a tropical getaway destination, offering more scenic attractions and better value for money than Vietnam, Thailand or Bali.     “As more brand-new aircraft enters the CEB fleet, we are now in a position to seriously study the possibility of expanding to more destinations in Australia. We are encouraged by our performance in the Australia market. Connecting key cities such as Perth or Cairns would give more Australians easier access to the Philippines and enable more Filipino-Australians to visit family more often,” added Iyog.     Cebu Pacific expects to receive 12 brand-new aircraft in 2019, the bulk of which are Airbus A321NEO (New Engine Option) aircraft. CEB had earlier expressed interest in opening new destinations in Australia, India and North Asia as it receives the new aircraft.

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AboitizPower subsidiaries among Davao’s top taxpayers

March 25, 2019

Davao City has named three AboitizPower subsidiaries as among its top taxpayers in 2018, highlighting their role in helping shape the growing metropolitan through their support.     During the recognition ceremony dubbed “Pasidungog: Garbo sa Dabaw 2019” on March 15, the city government cited Therma South, Inc. (TSI) and Davao Light and Power Co. as the top real property and top business taxpayers, respectively, for last year.      Hedcor, AboitizPower’s run-of-river hydropower arm, was also acknowledged as part of the city’s top 10 real property taxpayers.     In her opening speech, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio lauded the support of the city’s top taxpayers and emphasized how the city would not be what it is today without them.     “Like firewood that kindles the bonfire, our private partners have been our assets vital to shaping Davao City into the bustling, vibrant city it is today. We commend the top business and real property taxpayers and we want you to know that your taxes are being translated into programs and services for the Davaoeños, ” Duterte-Carpio said.     Pasidungog was among the many activities lined up during the 16-day celebration of the 82nd Araw ng Dabaw, which concluded on March 16.     This was not the first time AboitizPower subsidiaries were commended by the Davao city government as they have been consistently in the city’s roster of top taxpayers for many years already.     The latest recognition reinforces the AboitizPower group’s commitment to being a strong partner for development, aligned with its vision of advancing business and communities.     Davao Light, the country’s third largest electric distribution utility, holds franchise for distributing power to Davao City as well as Panabo City and the municipalities of Carmen, Dujali, and Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.     TSI operates AboitizPower’s 300-megawatt baseload power plant in Binugao, Davao City. Hedcor, on the other hand, manages several hydropower facilities in the city of Davao.

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