April 16, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana   

Tourist arrivals in the Cordillera have gone back to the normal levels following the decline experienced during and right after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Department of Tourism-CAR Director Jovita Ganongan reported the region recorded a total of 1,685,133 tourist arrivals for domestic and foreign visitors in 2023 which represented a 31 percent increase from the previous year.

Baguio City accounted for about 97 percent of the total number of arrivals at 1,309,934 tourists last year.

The data are sourced from reports submitted by the different local government units collated as regional tourism data.

Anthony de Leon, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio president, confirmed tourism in the city is normalizing and has gone back to the pre-pandemic level starting from the last quarter of 2023 up to the present.

He said it is fortunate that in 2022 one of the first destinations to open up to tourism was Baguio, hence the surge of visitors in the city followed by other destinations.

Ganongan said they have also observed more tourists and visitors go beyond Baguio to visit other sites in Benguet and other Cordillera provinces which have a lot more to offer in terms of experiential tourism.

“But the challenge really is to let them stay longer. I think we need more accommodation establishments in other areas like La Trinidad and Atok, where although there are accommodation facilities, it is very limited. To encourage them to stay overnight or longer, we need sufficient accommodation establishments,” Ganongan said.

To keep up with the demand upon the revival of tourism, she said the DOT Cordillera has set a tourism investment summit on April 2 and 3 to determine what needs to be improved in terms of infrastructure and investments to encourage the local private sector to venture into tourism.

The agency also recently met with accredited accommodation establishments and meetings, conferences and events venues and tackled the updated progressive accreditation system and documentary requirements for accreditation of tourism facilities.

The gathering also saw through the creation of associations per accredited accommodation category.

The initiative aimed to strengthen the campaign for accreditation and foster collaboration among tourism industry players.

“Being organized through the creation of associations provides them a platform for engagement and networks with other tourism businesses, and we are happy that our private sector is very active,” Ganongan said.

Aside from hotel, resort, and apartelle group categories, she said they have also organized the mabuhay category which are the pension houses, lodges, tourist inns, motels, and other types of accommodation guest houses; homestays; tourist related establishment groups; tour services, farm tourism sites, among other related industries.