THE Light Rail Manila Corp. (LRMC) will be launching a tourism project that would entice local and foreign travelers to “rediscover Manila” by riding its trains.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, LRMC Head of Corporate Communications Rochelle Gamboa said the 20-kilometer Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) provides the “fastest and most convenient” means of transportation in Metro Manila, and as such, will be able to connect tourists to various key destinations in the country’s capital.
“We want to boost tourism in [the Metro], especially since our line passes through Pasay, Makati, Manila, Caloocan and Quezon City,” she said.
Dubbed ikotManila (ikotMNL), the project is a partnership between LRMC and tour operators like Carlos Celdran (Walk This Way Intramuros), Ivan Man Dy (Old Manila Walks), and Tralulu (Binondo Food Crawl). The latter specializes in millennial guests. Gamboa said these partners “are still in the process of developing the tours that will feature the cities’ connectivity and walkability,” but they’ve already come up with an initial list of packages.
These include: Glorious Architecture, a visit to churches along LRT-1 stations from Baclaran (Our Mother of Perpetual Help) to Monumento (Shrine of Our Lady of Grace); Museum and the Arts, which will cover art and design spaces from Vito Cruz to Carriedo, and includes the National Museum; Bargains and Bites, a shopping experience in Baclaran, Cartimar, Divisoria and Chinatown, and Dangwa; and Nature and Nurture, which takes tourists through parks and monuments from Monumento (Bonifacio Monument) to Vito Cruz (CCP Complex).
LRMC is jointly owned by Metro Pacific Investments Corp., chaired by business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan; AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., chaired by Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala; and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure, a closed-end fund managed by Macquarie Infrastructure Management Ltd.
Gamboa said they are eyeing to launch ikotManila by July, but ticket prices have yet to be finalized, as details of the tour packages have not been fully threshed out. She said LRMC will be presenting these tours for approval by the DOT, “because they’re also very interested in looking at the details.”
She added that a mobile app is under development that will allow tourists to book their tours on their cellphones and other mobile devices. “We’ll have this mobile app by August or September; you can book online, pay online, then when the tourists get here, they’ll be met by a tour guide.” Gamboa also said if large groups have booked tours, “a train will be reserved for them,” but otherwise, the tourists and tour guide will join the regular queue of passengers on LRT-1.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat has expressed excitement for ikotManila and will be personally testing the tours, along with friends and select media. She told this paper, “we’d like to test it and then give honest feedback to LRMC, before they launch their project. I don’t want to just endorse a project; I want to experience it first.”
Asked about perceptions that Metro Manila is unsafe for tourists, Gamboa stressed, “This is where the DOT will come in as a partner, and the tourism offices of the cities will be able to enforce safety and sanitation regulations. We’ll work with the tourism officers, hopefully this will mobilize these local governments, to realize we have a lot to offer [to tourists]. Let’s do our share and make the city more tourist-friendly.”
According to the Hotel Sales and Marketing Associates International Inc., an estimated 1.5 million tourists visited Metro Manila from January to May 2018. Of this number, some 950,000 were foreign visitors, while the rest were domestic travelers. No comparative figures in 2016 were available.
Since the takeover of LRMC, LRT-1 trains have risen from 77 trains in September 2015 to 109 as of December 2017, according to data provided by the company. The average number of weekday trips has also risen by almost 10 percent from 505 in March 2017 to 554 in March 2018, while the average load factor (peak and off-peak) has improved by 5 percentage points from 93 percent in March 2017 to 88 percent in March 2018.
Queuing time by passengers have also improved to 3.41 minute in March 2018, from 3.5 minutes the year before, as trains have likewise cut their cycle time to 100 minutes in March 2018 to 106.1 minutes in 2017.
In the first quarter of 2018, LRMC reported an average daily ridership at 459,400 passengers, up 3 percent and 9 percent from the same period in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
The company also said LRT-1 has 28 trains with 98 cars available everyday from Baclaran to Roosevelt, with a 3.3-minute headway, compared to the Metro Rail Transit-3’s availability of 15 trains with 45 cars and a 7.5-minute headway from Taft Avenue to North Avenue.