As it continued to strengthen its ‘Paoay Kumakaway!’ tourism campaign, the Province of Ilocos Norte has recorded an estimated 1.6 million local and foreign tourists this 2015, the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office disclosed.

Based on data, INTO reported that during the summer season, from April to May, this year, the tourist arrivals reached a total of 878,258.

Last year’s tourist arrivals were more than 1.2 million, up by 22.15% this 2015.
During Governor Imee R. Marcos’ State of the Province Address last August, she noted that “tourism has grown to a stunning 380.64% in the past two years with more than 1.3 million day visitors from January to July 2015 only.”
An overwhelming number of tourists also visited the province last month during the long weekend vacation in Metro Manila due to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting which caused an unexpected shortage in hotel accommodation and food supplies in key tourists’ areas.

“We often run out of bagnet and inabel (loom-woven fabrics) now because demand outstrips supply. Visitors want to buy pasalubong for their friends and families, and souvenirs for themselves,” said Governor Marcos during an interview.

Through the ‘Paoay Kumakaway’ launched in 2012, the efforts of the provincial government translated to more jobs for the locals, especially those in the service sector, as the campaign had attracted national as well as global attention.

Governor Marcos said that the tourism industry has been a “real job starter” which has resulted to an “inclusive growth” in the province.

Last month, the province also opened three museums namely, the Burgos Lighthouse Museum, the Balay Dingras and the Taoid Museum which offer new attractions and sites to tourists, noting that over 60% has been identified as repeat visitors.
Governor Marcos said that the case of the returning visitors is a “happy problem” as it entails that the strategies are effective.

The upsurge in the tourism arrivals in the province was also followed by the development of more tourism infrastructure and facilities with the growth of capacity of hotel rooms and inns from 1,700 in 2012 to a close of 3,000 this year.
Major roads in Burgos, Pagudpud to Mt. Sicapao in Nueva Era have also been upgraded with the influx of tourists.

In addition, public transportation greatly improved with the launching of the Metro Ilocos Norte Council – Night Express last March to address the demands of tourists for night trips especially in the route going to Pagudpud.

Aside from the new tourist sites, Ilocos Norte’s major events like the Himala sa Buhangin! Arts and Music Festival, Semana ti Ar-aria, Paskua Mi Ditoy and Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals have also enticed tourists with the latter gathering more than 60,000 spectators.

“Nag-level up na tayo…hindi lamang pami-pamilya kundi korporasyon, sosyal, ang dumadating, tulad ng APEC-Renewable Energy Group nung Abril at Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry nung Hulyo,” said Governor Marcos.

The province has also hosted the third Paoay Lake International Regatta last October which was attended by rowers from the Philippines and international participants from Asia, Australia and United Kingdom.

“Karamihan ng mga turista na pumupunta sa Ilocos ay pumupunta rito dahil sa isang bagay lamang—sa kakaibang kultura ng mga tauhan, mga tribo, mga barangay dito sa (Ilocos) Norte,” said Governor Marcos.

She revealed that more sites in the province will be developed in the coming year, especially the undiscovered Ilocano Cordillera in the municipalities of Sarrat, Piddig, Carasi, Solsona, Dingras, Marcos, Banna and Nueva Era.

“There is still so much to learn, see and experience here in Ilocos Norte,” Governor Marcos added.—(John Michael Mugas, PGIN-CMO)