Actually this is a leap of faith for us,” said Junie Jalandoni, Ayala Land SVP and group head for commercial business, hotels and resorts. And he said that with a grin that seemed to lend levity to an otherwise awesome, even grand, undertaking, the Lio Tourism Estate of El Nido, Palawan.
It covers a gross land area of 325 ha, with 45 percent to be left undeveloped as nature reserve and open space.
There are already the El Nido island resorts of Lagen, Pangulasian, Miniloc, El Nido Cove and Apulit.
And fast taking shape is the Lio Tourism Estate which now has a beachfront promenade, the Casa Kalaw hotel (42 rooms) which just opened, and the soon-to-open Balai Adlao (20 rooms) and Hotel Covo (20 rooms)—all low-rise, “not taller than the coconut tree” goes the opt-description. (Rates start at $100/night.)
Amid this hospitality development will rise the artisan village called the Kalye Artisano. (See related story on page C1.)
Lio is an ecologically sustainable destination, like the rest of El Nido. Its design is anchored on its lush tropical surroundings, open space, the beach and the sea. Its beachfront promenade has restaurants, shops, bars. The 4 km stretch of white sand beach is the perfect venue for water activities such as kayaking, beach volleyball, biking or simply strolling by the shore.
According to the fact sheet given media, P11 billion is allotted for the El Nido development until 2022, with a plan for 787 new hotel units to add to the current 213.
1,000 hotel keys
There’ll be a total of 1,000 hotel keys by 2022.
And now, Jalandoni and other Ayala executives describe it to media over dinner at the beachfront promenade of Lio as if the way the venture happened was an act of faith.
According to Jalandoni, it was the Ayala patriarch, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, way back in the ’90s who saw the potential of El Nido.
In 2008, Ayala Land decided to come in and bought the Ten Knots Development Corp. started by the Japanese investors in the islands. The Lio Tourism Estate now is an undertaking of Ayala Land and Ten Knots Philippines Inc.
“There will be the Seda chain. We are creating destinations,” said Al Legaspi, chief operating officer of Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp.
Their markets are from the high-end to the backpackers.
Javi Hernandez, the president of Ten Knots and vice president of Ayala Land, stresses the development of communities. “As in any community, there’s the church, the market, the transpo terminals for locals and tourists. And it helps that the Palawan weather is kinder. You’ll be surprised how many city dwellers are enjoying the Palawan kind of life.”
Manille Beach bar
The Lio beachfront already has restaurants, bars, cafés, including the El Nido Grill and the Manille Beach bar (the latter owned by Destileria Limtuaco’s Olive Limpe-Aw).
Our dinner at El Nido Grill was sumptuous, from grilled squid to meat barbecues.
The good news is a 48-seat aircraft now flies to El Nido, five times a day, operated by AirSwift, an airline established by Ayala for the El Nido route.
There’s also the new Lio Airport Terminal, with comfortable lounges.
Ayala Malls Group headed by Ayala Land VP Rowena Tomeldan flew in 120 merchants to El Nido to give them a taste of island resort living.
Jalandoni is confident that there will be growth in travel regardless of the tension in world or local issues. “Bad news is just cyclical,” he said. —THELMA S. SAN JUAN