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Tourist spot-rich N. Luzon goes all out for Visit RP ’03
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Rachel Castro-Barawid
Date: 2002-08-28
BAGUIO — Even as a strong typhoon lashed the city, over 300 participants showed up at the first Regional Tourism-Related Industry Congress (TRICON) for Region 1 and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at the Baguio Country Club recently, registering the second largest number of attendance in all of the regional TRICONs held in other provinces.

Under the theme “Gearing Up for Visit Philippines 2003,” the regional TRICONs held in the country’s various key spots covering all 15 regions are part of the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) efforts to realize its goal of making the Philippines a prime tourist destination in the Asia-Pacific. The TRICON meetings were held to prepare the local government units (LGUs) and all those working in the tourism industry for the influx of tourists coming next year for the Visit Philippines Year (VPY) 2003. The VPY campaign was fully endorsed by the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization, the biggest policy-making body for travel and tourism.

Undersecretary Oscar P. Palabyab who represented Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, received unanimous support from the participants who were mostly local government officials, top decision-makers and opinion leaders in the travel and tourism industry of Region 1 and CAR. Region 1 comprises the provinces of Dagupan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan. On the other hand, CAR region is composed of Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province.

The participants, who were eager to be active stakeholders in sustainable tourism development, have pledged their commitment and their communities’ participation in the upcoming campaign which hopes to revive the country’s ailing tourism industry through some three million visitors expected to come from various parts of the globe.

For his part, Baguio Mayor Bernardo Vergara declared “that the city which has always been a victim of natural calamities has risen once again due to the people’s unity, cooperation and determination to succeed.”

He claimed that Baguio is already capable of hosting big conventions with the continuous development of vital infrastructures for business and tourism. Among these, he said, are the restoration of the access roads in Kennon and Marcos Highway; emergence of investors like Henry Sy who plans to build another SM mall in the area, mushrooming of restaurants, cafés and the contruction of a 100-room world-class hotel in Camp John Hay.

Baguio Congressman Mauricio Domogan said that the House has allotted as part of his pork barrel fund only R255,600 for the city’s tourism development. Although doubting on what this small amount can accomplish for the city, he still assured his constituents that with their cooperation and support from investors, businessmen, Baguio will definitely catch up with other big cities in the country.

Domogan urged the people that in order to market Baguio to tourists, especially foreigners, they should first “be tourists to their own destinations.” He also called on to local officials to do their share in promoting tourism in their areas by holding regular tourist-related activities in each town.

Meanwhile, in a press conference held the same day, several locals voiced their concerns on the problems of Baguio. Some complained that the “worsening traffic in Session Road, deteriorating condition of highways which are gateways to CAR destinations, selfish businessmen, and the large number of migrants coming from various parts of the country have all contributed to the change in Baguio’s character.” Others also appealed to tourists to observe proper etiquette and respect local traditions when visiting sensitive cultural areas, stressing that “nature and culture should be preserved by tourism not sacrificed or damaged by it.”

While promising to follow up on these internal issues with LGUs concerned, Palabyab also sought the help of the locals in the development of the city, and their participation to the VPY campaign.

Toward the second part of the TRICON, the participants were divided into groups and underwent an intensive review of their products, designed reasonably priced tour packages and the necessary marketing strategies to support it.

DOT-CAR director Purification Suanding-Molintas said the Cordillera participants pushed for the development of the emerging tourism products in the region such as hot springs, trekking, mountain climbing along Mt. Ugo, Benguet, hook and line fishing, springboard diving, and boating on Binga Dam.

Likewise, Northern Luzon’s fine beaches, historical landmarks, pilgrimage sites, and several ecotourism and recreational activities were also marketed to the LGUs. DoT-Region 1 director Ernesto Malay Jr. explained that the tourist destinations within the two regions are being clustered to complement each site like Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Abra as well as La Union, Benguet and Pangasinan.

The DoT also held regional TRICONs for Central, Western and Eastern Visayas, Northeastern, Southern and Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Bicol, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in Davao. Currently, Sec. Gordon and key players in the tourism and travel fields are conducting a series of roadshows and sales missions in 29 cities in North America, Asia and Europe to solicit commitments and support for the VPY campaign.

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