LAOAG CITY, May 16 (PIA) – Ilocos Norte tourism industry may be said to be a step ahead of events.
Long before the Scarborough Shoal issue, which reportedly may lead to lesser Chinese tourist arrivals, Ilocos Norte tourism officials have made moves to attract more local tourists and those from other countries.
Since the Holy Week furlough, the province has been visited by nearly 700,000 local and foreign tourists, records from the provincial tourism office showed.
Tourism Officer Ianree Raquel said the figures were collected from hotel owners, homestays, lodging houses including traffic and tourist centers that were set up since the start of the summer season.
The droves of visitors, a major chunk consisted of domestic tourists, that came to the province were largely attributed to the tourism pitch that Governor Imee Marcos put together earlier this year targeting the domestic market and other countries.
The campaign pitch “Paoay Kumakaway (Paoay is waving),” which was launched in March had since reached a wide audience locally and abroad using television spots, billboards in Metro Manila’s main traffic routes, on the screens of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and online sites.
Marcos also transformed Ilocos Norte’s tourism landscape from a mere R&R (rest and recreation) spot to a family-type destination after the number of Chinese tourists dwindled following the pull out of Hongkong flights from Laoag as a result of the Luneta hostage crisis in Manila in 2010.
Marcos said that while the increased tourism entry was a positive development, the provincial government did not anticipate the huge number of tourists flocking to the province.
“We managed the droves of tourists that came in with grave difficulty,” she said during a recent media forum.
She said the limited hotels and restaurants around the province were no match to the number of tourists streaming in.
“We tied up with gasoline stations to accommodate tourists stopping over for comfort room breaks to address the absence or lack of public toilets,” she said.
The province’s tourism brand involved repackaging Ilocos Norte as a destination route for man-made, natural and historical attractions with a variety of sites to choose from such as Kapurpurawan (White) Rock Formation of Burgos, Pagudpud beaches, Bangui windmill view deck, Paoay Sand Dunes, Marcos Museum and Paoay Church as among the favorites.
On top of the usual tourism sites, the provincial government also put together unusual events beginning May to continue generating tourism activities such as the sand festival along the Paoay Sand Dunes last May 10.
The event was meant to sell the province’s stretch of sand dunes as venue for sand sports like off-road racing, sandcastle building and art installations.
The Paoay sand dunes became popular in 1982 as the setting of internationally acclaimed film “Himala” by the late national artist Ishmael Bernal and which starred Nora Aunor.
It was on the same spot that unusual art installations of sculptor Leeroy New were built as part of the sand festival.
New’s works included a huge vessel-type bamboo art that he built in 12 days and stood in the middle of the desert. It became the backdrop of the day-long event on May 10.
The vessel-craft was inspired by the galleon trade during the Spanish rule. (ANL/CCA-PIA1 Ilocos Norte)