Tourist arrivals in I. Norte on the rise as Holy Week, summer approach

LAOAG CITY – Tourists started to arrive in droves once again in Ilocos Norte as the province prepares for Holy Week and the summer season, the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) here reported.

Xavier Ruiz, provincial tourism officer, revealed that around 5,000 local and international tourists have visited the province during last month’s long weekend with major hotels  fully booked as of February 22, and the rest reporting a 50% and above occupancy.

The number of visitors are expected to climb for the upcoming summer holidays, Ruiz added even as she noted that the record of arrivals showed an increase in the number of  European tourists, particularly Swedish and Russians and Asian tourists that included Indonesians, Japanese and Koreans.

Ruiz also reported that several Lakbay-Aral groups have visited the province while 400 Filipino architects held their national convention in this city in February.

“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 in the thick of preparation for the holidays, marking all Tuesdays starting Feb. 26 until Holy Week to check up on all the tourist facilities in key tourism areas in the province.

“Our office has to constantly gear up because our tourist arrival rate is steadily increasing since 2011, and based on observations alone by our tourist center staffs and the estimates given by the hotels, this month [February] definitely has a higher number of tourist arrivals than February of 2012,” Ruiz added.

Most visited tourist destinations are 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, all reporting record-high revenues for February alone.

“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 just like last year’s 680,000—the province’s highest record in tourist arrivals so far. This upsurge for the first two months of 2013 alone is something we can really be positive about,” Ruiz said.

Ilocos Norte has been a preferred tourist destination for its accessibility, rich cultural and historical heritage and diverse activities such as water and sand sports, nature-based adventures, and now with new attractions such as beach parties and special events. (With report from Grazielle Mae A. Sales, PGIN-CMO