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Ridge to Reef: Ilocos Norte to start welcoming tourists from Northern Luzon

by PGIN-CMO

Sep. 01, 2020 ...

Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc has committed to the opening of the "Northern Luzon Tourism Corridor," an initiative of Chief Executives and Tourism Councils in Northern Luzon to cushion the impact of COVID-19 across tourism industries.

Preparing for the resumption of tourism by rolling out a rehabilitation plan, the Provincial Governments of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan, and the City Government of Baguio have collaborated to prioritize the livelihood rehabilitation of their constituents while guaranteeing the overall safety of tourists and spurring again tourism-related economic activities.

 "We started discussing the 'Tourism Bubble' concept together with 'the Department of Tourism (DOT) and counterparts in Region I and Baguio City, as well as other Tourism Officers in the country because at that time, very early in May,  there was no clear reference about how to address the impact of the pandemic," explained Mr. Aian B. Raquel, Ilocos Norte's Provincial Tourism Officer.

Chief Executives and Tourism Councils have mutually-agreed to promote each other's tourism attractions among local communities, underscoring the importance of ensuring tourists' and residents' safety.

Earlier today, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, Ilocos Sur 2nd District Rep. Kristine Singson Meehan, Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson, Ilocos Norte Gov. Mathew Joseph Marcos Manotoc, Pangasinan Gov. Amado I. Espino III, and La Union Gov. Francisco Emmanuel Ortega, who was represented by Department of Tourism (DOT) Region I Regional Director Joseph Francisco Ortega, at the Baguio Country Club.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Government, through the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO),  has been working on the province's guidelines; consulting with top doctors and medical frontliners, alongside Accommodation Establishments Organizations, Tour Guides, and Tour Operators, and other tourism stakeholders to produce dynamic tour programs flexible to its current public health situation.

"Our reopening is gradual, carefully planned with strict policies, and our program is nimble and responsive to the changing situations caused by the pandemic. We must open slowly, safely, and surely," Mr. Raquel stressed.

Rebuilding confidence to travel

To continue promoting the province as a trusted destination, Ilocos Norte is developing the "Safe Travel Application for You in Ilocos Norte" or Stay IN web application that guides incoming tourists to comply with pre-arrival requirements and in booking only accredited accommodation and tour operators. This online platform is in collaboration with Information Technology experts of the Mariano Marcos State University.

Raquel said that tourist arrival involves a strict pre-registration, observance of the medical triage, and SOP for hotels and tour operators. Further, tour programs are "highly controlled" as these were designed so that tourists will have minimal exposure to communities.

Recently, INTO also initiated "hyperlocal" activities; a marketing strategy that targets the population in a specific community to drive foot traffic to physical locations, such as a drive-in concert at the Laoag City Sand Dunes and along the Ilocos Norte-Cordillera highway.

"We want a reboot or rethinking of our tourism industry in the province and see how we can become even more sustainable in the new normal," Mr. Raquel mused.

Next week, Ilocos Norte will host Tourism Officials and stakeholders from Baguio-La Union-Pangasinan-Ilocos Sur-Ilocos Norte (BLUPISIN) Technical Working Group for finalization of guidelines and site inspections.

On September 21, Ilocos Norte contingents will go to Baguio City for a public show of the province's tourism offerings. Likewise, on October 1, the province will launch initial tours of incoming tourists from outisde Ilocos Norte.