Tourist arrivals rising ahead of Holy Week, summer in I. Norte

Tourists have started to stream anew into the province as Ilocos Norte prepares for he Holy Week and the summer season,  the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) reported.
Xavier Ruiz of PTO said about 5,000 local and international tourists had arrived and stayed in the province during the long weekend last February 22 to 25.
He added that major hotels in the province had 100% occupancy as of Feb. 22, and the other smaller hotels had 50% and above which may climb during  the upcoming summer holidays.
The breakdown of the latest arrivals showed an increase of European tourists, particularly Swedish and Russians as well as Asian tourists such as Indonesians, Japanese and Koreans.
Meanwhile, domestic visitors also increased due to several Lakbay-Aral activities and corporate functions by various groups across the country such as the  recent national convention of Filipino architects composed of some 400 delegates.
“While the province is handling numerous tourism-related accounts, still the tourist surge is mainly due to free independent travelers who came in individually or in peers or families vacationing with a self-booked itinerary,” Ruiz said.
PTO is now mapping out  several preparations for the holidays especially the Holy Week by checking  all the tourist facilities in key tourism areas in the province.
“This month [February]  has a higher number of tourist arrivals compared to that of February last year,” Ruiz added.
Most visited tourist destinations were the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Burgos, the Malacañang of the North in Paoay and the newly-refurbished Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center in Batac City and others.
Through the active tourism campaign by the Provincial Government, Ilocos Norte is “likely to get the same or even higher number of tourist arrivals” by the end of the summer season. Last year of same period had recorded 680,000 tourist arrivals—the province’s highest number of  tourist arrivals, Ruiz said.
“The upsurge for the first two months of 2013 alone is something we can really be positive about.”
It may be noted that Ilocos Norte is  a preferred tourist destination due to its accessibility, rich cultures, historical heritage and diverse attractions such as water and sand sports, nature-based adventures,  beach parties and special events.
Provincial officials said these developments in the tourism industry in the province had paid off as they helped solve the poverty and unemployment woes noting that more local jobs were created to cater to the needs of the  tourists.—Grazielle Mae A. Sales, PGIN-CMO