Tourists Flock to Ilocos Norte, Unfazed by Crime Rise

LAOAG CITY, Jan.30 (PIA) – Tourists flow into Ilocos Norte continues to pick up despite an uptrend of crime incidents beginning January.

Milagros “Marie” Gonzales, provincial chief of the Department of Tourism, on Sunday media interview said that crime incidents appeared to have no effect on the entry of tourists in Ilocos Norte as shown by busloads of visitors who arrived here for rest and recreation activities.

“The tourism hits for the province remain high. Most visitors that are billeted in big hotels are students from Metro Manila and nearby Luzon provinces,” she said.

Gonzales credits the sustained interest to Ilocos tourism to aggressive marketing and promotions of hotel operators in top of DOT’s promotional programs.

She noted that tourists continue to see Ilocos Norte as peaceful despite constant reports of violent activities in some areas around the province.

“Even Chinese investors have not been scared off despite the suspension of Hongkong flights to the city. These businessmen continue to place their trust on our stable peace and order,” she added.

Direct flights from Hongkong to Laoag have not resumed since August, a result of the bloody Aug. 23 hostage-taking at Luneta Park in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

The Hong Kong Express airline used to fly in about 1,200 Hong Kong nationals twice a week.

Gonzales said the government continues to negotiate with other airline companies for the opening of other international flights to Laoag.

The Laoag International Airport currently services the Kaoshiung, Taiwan flight to this city and vice versa. The absence of other international traffic is compensated by daily domestic flights from Manila through the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Gonzales said tourist influx is expected to soar with the upcoming Pamulinawen festival in Laoag beginning February 1 which will be sustained throughout the Holy Week and summer vacation in March.

“We foresee a shortage of hotel accommodation during the duration of the city fiesta and will continue until the summer season,” she said.

To shore up hotel accommodation, the DOT has accredited about 35 homestay facilities in the popular resort town of Pagudpud. (Cristina Arzadon)