*It brings in thousands of tourists,
SMEs have a brisk business trade

The Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN), through the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO) and Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) Office, has served over a thousand of tourists brought in by cruise ship Superstar Virgo, which docked yesterday, Jan. 14 off port of Omnico Natural Resources Inc., in Badoc, Ilocos Norte.

The big tourist arrival had benefitted the local SMEs in Ilocos Norte ranging from souvenir shops to mini cafeterias and sari-sari (small convenience) stores. Travel and tour agencies and transport rental companies also became in demand by ferrying visitors to the different historical landmarks and tourist spots in Ilocandia.

According to the SME office, the Pitaya Dragon Fruit of Editha Dacuycuy, Ilocos Coolers, Ilocos Empanada in San Nicolas, Agnes Dragon Fruit, Sharetea Ilocos, Good Vibes Cafe, and Araceli Souvenir Shop in Bangui, among others, were heavily patronized by the foreign and local tourists who disembarked from the Virgo cruise ship.

Mary Grace Justo, SME staff, said that the most in-demand products were fresh coconut and mango fruit shakes. She added that their office, together with the INTO, constantly coordinated with SME owners four days before the cruise ship arrivals, giving them enough time to prepare.

“Malaking tulong itong pagdating ng cruise ship kasi kapag nasa Bangui lang ako, ang hirap magkaroon ng customers. Tumaas ang sales namin. Malaki talaga ang naitutulong ng Provincial Capitol through SME office and INTO dahil additional income po namin ito,” said 55-year-old handcraft artisan Arceli Macaganda of Bangui.

Likewise, travel and tour agency owners considered the cruise ship arrival as a great help to local drivers and tour guides.

“With our 24 buses, lagpas isang libong turista ‘yan. Marami talaga ang matutulungang kapwa Ilocano,” said Jessie Duco Apostol, owner of JDA Tours in Laoag and Vigan.

INTO Head Ianree Raquel said, “We have to make sure that we are able to provide the best services to our visitors, which is why we are assisting them [stakeholders] to make sure that this new market of cruise ship tourism will be sustained for a longer period of time.”

Meanwhile, Governor Imee R. Marcos revealed that other cruise ships are coming to Ilocos Norte through the same port. Thus, she calls for continuous cooperation between the Provincial Government, local government units (LGUs), and tourism stakeholders in sustaining the province’s cruise ship industry.

“Talaga namang tuloy-tuloy ang pagdating ng mga turista dito sa Ilocos Norte, lalong-lalo na ngayon na may regular docking schedule ang Star Cruises Superstar Virgo,” said Gov. Marcos.

“In addition to Superstar Virgo, may mas maliliit na barko na darating. It’s quite exciting dahil naging destination na nga tayo pati sa mga maliliit na vessels. Dumating din ang Royal Caribbean a couple of weeks ago,” referring to the ship owned by American company Royal Caribbean International.
She added, “Kaya naman, sinasabi ko sa ating mga stakeholder to continue really sustaining together this new industry. Pati na rin ang ating mga LGUs near the port, sana mag-develop sila ng karagdagang attractions at activities para sa mga turista.”

Superstar Virgo is one of six luxury vessels operated by Asia’s leading cruise line, Star Cruises, owned by Genting Hong Kong.

Tourist arrivals in Ilocos Norte have increased since the ship’s maiden arrival last March 20, 2017, which brought in an estimated 2,600 local and foreign visitors every week until May.
Arrivals resumed last month, promising a constant flow of visitors throughout the Bicentennial Founding Anniversary celebration of Ilocos Norte until the La Milagrosa Provincial Fiesta this coming May 2018. # (PGIN-CMO)