Pinoy assembler builds alternative tourist van

By Monico D. Mekaniko

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – A Filipino entrepreneur is making the most out of an improving tourism industry in the Philippines.

Encouraged by this trend, truck and van assembler Centro Manufacturing Corporation has unveiled its locally-made shuttle tourist van that would compete with other branded manufacturers.

The iVAN Tourister uses the chassis and engine of the Isuzu NKR truck.  Slightly bigger than traditional vans, it could seat nine passengers and would have an audio-video system for guided tours. Because of the use of a small truck's chassis, the vehicle would be able to go through tough terrain while keeping passengers seated comfortably.

Centro President Raphael Juan said the development of the iVAN Tourister was prompted by an increase in group tour services wherein smaller vehicles needed. He also noted that certain tourism spots do not have paved roads; while this adds to the ambiance of the destination, it does cause trouble for vehicles especially those that were not built for such terrain.

“Tourism companies needed something more compact than a bus yet bigger than an AUV (Asian utility vehicle). Considering the top tourism destinations where the road and driving conditions may not be as good as expected, what was needed was a tough tourist shuttle vehicle that could take on the humps and bumps but with the comfort of a luxury microbus, which is why we developed the iVAN Tourister is our answer to these needs,” Juan said.

Citing data from the Department of Tourism, Juan said that foreign tourism has grown in the last two years with many of these requiring tour guides. This increase in tourism could pave the way for more types of vehicles addressing specific needs.

“The transport sector has been factored in the overall scheme of things. One of DOT's strategic plans to achieve its goals is to improve market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure. This is where tourism-grade transport is needed. The result is that one of the top five jobs generated by the tourism industry is passenger transport,” Juan said.

DOT statistics showed that there were 3,710,302 foreign tourists in the Philippines as of December 2011, up 12.7 percent from 2010. Koreans lead with 925,204 visitors, followed by Americans who account for 624,527 and by the Japanese with 375,496. The DOT has set a target of 10 million visitors by 2016.

Till next time, this is Monico D. Mekaniko, Va-va-vroom!

(Photo from Centro Manufacturing)

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