Ilocos Norte’s ‘new normal’ attractions: saving grace amid Covid

ILOCOS INFLATABLE ISLAND. An inflatable island is being installed at Paoay Lake, which is slated to open in December. The province of Ilocos Norte continues to invest in outdoor tourism as part of its economic recovery amid the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Ilocos Norte Tourism)

CITY OF LAOAG – Ilocos Norte province continues to innovate in outdoor venues as tourism players find ways to bounce back into the “new normal” amid the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic (Covid-19) .

At the end of 2021, the Ministry of Tourism (DOT) along with the 21 towns and two towns of Ilocos Norte relaunch the tourism development framework of the province by focusing on the promotion of outdoor sites to attract tourists without no more tests required at provincial borders to be fully immunized. people.

As of December 22, 2021, the Pinili Tourist Yard had registered a total of 15,741 tourists since October 1, 2020, with more tourists arriving when Ilocos Norte began to relax its travel protocols among returning residents and later, to all fully vaccinated tourists, including minors traveling with adults.

From December 1 to 15, provincial tourism officer Aianree Raquel reported on Thursday that 3,715 tourists visited Ilocos Norte.

Most of the local tourists came from Nueva Ecija, Baguio town, Benguet, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Zamboanga Sibugay. Visitors to Metro Manila also eagerly headed north.

The number is a big jump from the 65 visitors recorded during the same period last year.

“The increase of 5,891.94% is for inbound visitors only and does not include data for residents,” Raquel added, citing that more tourists are expected to visit the province until the end of the year. more relaxed entry guidelines.

“New normal” sites

Scenic cycle paths in various parts of Ilocos Norte have helped revive the resumption of tourism amid the pandemic.

At least 12 scenic cycle paths are being promoted in Ilocos Norte and will soon be integrated as an additional alternative for leisure travel.

In Ilocos Norte, the biker community has grown to around 30,000 compared to the pre-pandemic times when there were less than 5,000, said Roja Burgos, coordinator of Ilocos Team Burgy x Ilocos DH Racing motorcycle group. Team.

The province has something for environmentalists and nature lovers with the opening of a recently launched bird watching tour in the Paoay Lake Nature Park to help boost the local economy in the region, the region said. DOT regional director Evangeline Dadat in a recent interview.

Before the pandemic, birders frequented the lake for the chance to see the great cormorant, a migratory bird known for its matted feathers, as well as other species of birds.

According to the latest Asian waterbird census, Filipino ducks are commonly seen in the region with an average number of 600.

Cormorants are also commonly seen in the wetlands of the lake, around 10 or more of them at a time. The Community Office for the Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) also noted that Lake Paoay has provided shelter for other bird species such as the Lesser Grebe, Great Egret, Little Egret, Guardian Beef, Crested Duck, White-browed Crane, American Kingfisher, White Collared Kingfisher, and White-throated Kingfisher.

Besides bird watching, tourists can also take a quick run and swim in the planned inflatable island being installed at Lake Paoay, which is slated to open in December.

The PHP 26.1 million water park is said to be the start of a long-standing desire by the government of Ilocos Norte to activate Lake Paoay for tourism and investment opportunities.

“I love our place to have such a healthy and grandiose lake. Its beauty and cleanliness have been preserved for our next generation to see and enjoy, ”said Claire Tabili, a resident of Nagbacalan village, a stone’s throw from the landlocked lake.

“Before the pandemic, we sold grills by the lake and earn extra money from tourists who bought us refreshments and snacks,” she recalls.

In Batac City, stall owners selling the famous empanada made from grated papaya, mung beans (monggo), eggs and longganisa (local sausages) are running out of stock before closing due to pop-up events. by various groups, including some newly opened outdoor attractions in the nearby towns of Paoay and Currimao.

“We are grateful for the government support as our sales slowly increased in December because many people are now going out to enjoy the outdoors,” said Rolen Oracion, one of the booth owners at the Batac Riverside Empanadaan.

To help boost economic recovery, the city government of Batac has also introduced a boat and kayak adventure on the Quiaoit River to attract more visitors.

“We continue to promote tourism in the hope that 2022 will be a better year for all of us,” Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc said on Thursday during a Christmas caravan in the town of Paoay.

Recovery assistance

To help displaced workers in the tourism industry due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN), through the Tourist Office of Ilocos Norte (INTO), supported the Tourism Livelihood Continuity Program (TLCP) to help with the daily wage. employees, informal workers and the self-employed.

Government data shows that more than 1,250 beneficiaries from around 300 tourist establishments in the province worked for 10 days under the supervision of their employers and received a salary of PHP 4,000.

Over 2,000 catering staff, travel and tour staff, senior tour guides, accommodation staff, destination workers, local produce vendors, souvenir makers, events and independent artists, heritage artisans and other workers in the tourism and cultural sectors have been supported through the TLCP.

Solve traffic problems

Guided by the Metro Ilocos Development Master Plan of 2020, the province aims to develop more outdoor sites and update the province’s transport master plan, incorporating cycle lanes in areas with increasing traffic problem. , as in downtown Laoag.

Priority areas are Laoag city center, Ilocos Norte sand dunes located in Paoay and Laoag, Paoay lake and North Malacañang, Badoc gate and La Virgen Milagrosa, Geo and renewable energy park from Kapurpurawan, the municipal beach of Saud and the Solsona-Apayao Mountain Tourism road. (ANP)

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