BUILDING RESILIENT ECONOMY SANS TOURISTS AND STUDENTS
The standstill in tourism activities in Baguio is the most appropriate time for those in City Hall, the hospitality and service and education sectors to reassess how the city, known as the center of tourism and education up north, will be promoted at a time when movement of people is limited and when interactions now happen mostly in cyberspace.
As of May, the Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) has reported more than P18 billion in losses due to the enhanced community quarantine. The data did not include businesses that decided to permanently close shop or those that retrenched their employees due to huge losses since the start of the pandemic.
For Baguio, around P1.4B losses were reported in the tourism industry alone, especially when the city decided not to stage the crowd-drawing annual Baguio Flower Festival and closing its doors to visitors and tourists during the summer. The amount of losses could reach more as the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, from time to time, modifies community quarantine guidelines depending on the case doubling time within a certain period.
The situation came at a time when Baguio is also commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1990 killer quake that greatly impacted the city’s economy when all major arteries going in and out of the city were closed for months. But like in the previous disasters, this ever-resilient city has recovered to become one of the most progressive highly-urbanized cities in the country today.
The City Tourism Office has come up with a recovery plan that seeks to make major changes in the tourism industry beginning with the regulation on the entry of tourists and visitors; mandatory payment of green fees; and registration or accreditation of tour guides and agencies to give CTO an actual count of how many have entered Baguio on a certain period.
The CTO is on track in terms of addressing the overflow of tourists in Baguio but the recovery plan should not be confined in the tourism sector alone. With Baguio’s economy largely dependent on tourism and education, planning should not just be on “recovery” but focus should shift on how Baguio will survive without the tourists and students – the biggest contributors to Baguio’s gross domestic product.
Without them, many establishments that depend on tourism and education only earn breakeven or might permanently stop operations, depending on how we are categorized in the community quarantine.
Baguio has survived the ECQ with only the residents making the economy run, but in the long term, we need more revenue to keep the economy afloat. When online classes become the norm, more schools, boarding houses, and other businesses that depend on transient residents will fold up.
This is the challenge to our chief executive, policymakers, stakeholders, and the community in general. Will Baguio still be called an education, tourism, events and conventions center of the north? The tourism and economic recovery plan should include an alternative approach to promoting Baguio, bearing in mind lessons learned from allowing an overflow of visitors.
We welcome the fact that Baguio was able to recharge during the community quarantine period. It is this rejuvenated Baguio that frequent visitors of the city miss. It need not be nostalgia all the time. We can bring back Baguio, along with improvements that helped make the Summer Capital not only just a tourism center but also the center of economic activities in the Cordillera.
Corollary, we hope that the recovery plan made by City Hall in consultation with stakeholders will not be reduced to just a mere document, but a dependable and doable program that will both save a vital sector, as well as the city’s environment.
Together, let us give meaning to the “Angat Tayo Baguio” slogan.