March 2, 2024

UNSUSTAINABLE TOURISM

By all indications, Baguio City is fast recovering from the slump it experienced when the former administration declared lockdowns nationwide due to the spread of the Covid-19. But just like the situation before the declaration of the pandemic, residents again have to compete for space brought about by overcrowding of cars and people.
Baguio’s fragile environment, which was reinvigorated when community quarantines were imposed, is again being compromised because of the sudden influx of tourists – or revenge tourism as some call it.
Air pollution is making a comeback and there is a surge in the volume of garbage being collected by the General Services Office because of the influx of domestic and foreign tourists.
It is frustrating to see that after all the pronouncements of city officials that tourist entry to Baguio will be regulated, the measures implemented to sift entrants through the online visitor portal Visita has taken a backseat.
The means by which concerned offices would have been able to make a physical count of how many are entering Baguio as tourists, visitors, and transients have been relegated to the backburner negating initial efforts to make tourism in Baguio, sustainable.
It is even more frustrating when all we hear from a ranking official was an appeal for the residents to be patient, instead of outlining an action plan regarding the perennial problem about traffic congestion, pollution, and overcrowding.
We are not overlooking the fact that we are in the process of recovering hence the need to reactivate economic activities but the pandemic should not be an excuse to neglect rules and regulations that are already in place.
Boracay was once shut down for six months to allow the island to recover from human activities as a result of “over tourism”, and to allow the crafting of guidelines for regulated tourism.
When the island reopened, one of the guidelines was to limit the number of guests to 6,000 daily. Based on news reports, revenge tourism has resulted in the accommodation of guests beyond the prescribed daily cap.
The same is happening in Baguio following the lifting of restrictions that required guests to be fully vaccinated against the Covid-19.
Concerned officials and stakeholders may argue that regulated entry into the island is easier as opposed to Baguio which has several exits and entrances.
But the fact that Baguio was able to develop a system to control the number of guests meant that if these concerned officials and offices are really intent on preserving or conserving what remains of a city known for its pine scent and cool climate, it can actually takeoff from what it started and implement these regulatory measures if it is serious about developing a sustainable tourism plan for Baguio.
We have not learned our lesson from past experiences, and the efforts of people who started to put systems in place to make a visit in Baguio pleasant will be put to naught if this phenomenon is allowed to continue.
We hope by the time Panagbenga 2023 is celebrated, regulatory measures will have been in place and strictly implemented so that both residents and tourists enjoy what Baguio has to offer.