16 Dec 2021
IN THE NEWS‼️
BOLINAO, Pangasinan – The municipality here has been awarded second place for its best tourism practice during the pandemic by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) and the Department of Tourism in the annual Pearl Awards.
The town’s entry, titled Mibangon Atamo (We Rise as One), centered on the involvement of everybody to overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic to the tourism industry in their locality.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, municipal tourism officer Mary de Guzman attested that the Bayanihan prevails in their town among the national government agencies, tourism workers, associations, and the citizens amid the pandemic.
“Together with law enforcers, we at the local government unit (LGU) ensure that minimum public health standards and other protocols are being implemented in tourism sites and accommodations,” she said.
De Guzman added they have exerted best efforts to educate the tourism-related businesses and the public regarding health and safety protocols, especially in traveling, to ensure that health and safety are prioritized above all.
The Bolinao Tourism Association, on the other hand, helped coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients as well as to the front-liners by providing food packs, hygiene kits, and vitamins at the start of the pandemic, she added.
The town has established its incident command center that is based on the national standard.
The municipal tourism office during the lockdowns did not stop its mandate and instead used the time to prepare for the reopening of tourism.
De Guzman said they organized and trained residents virtually to become tour guides in addition to their existing guides while waiting for local tourism to resume.
“We were the pilot LGU to do such training in the entire Ilocos Region. After the training, we were able to produce quality tour guides and they were actually displaced workers from airlines and some are (private) school teachers,” she said.
There were additional 32 tour guides in the town to their existing 70 guides before the pandemic.
“There is high sustainability and provision of livelihood through this program as when the tourism opened in July last year, we had high tourist arrivals who were booking with us and our tour guides were fully equipped on how to handle tourists amid this pandemic,” de Guzman said.
De Guzman said prior to the easing of restrictions to give way to tourism, they also launched the Bolinao Saint James documentary film and virtual tour written and directed by the municipality’s Vice Mayor Richard Celeste, who is also the committee chairman on tourism of the Sangguniang Bayan.
“It is a form of marketing tool to entice tourists to come to visit our town,” she added.
The LGU also focused on their branding by introducing mascots, Bolido and Anao, based on a non-historical legend but their love story thrives in the memory of the people of Bolinao, she said.
De Guzman said the LGU headed by the local chief executive decided to balance the economy and health of the people but they prepared the necessary measures to accomplish their goal.
“Even when most of the tourist destinations in the province remained closed and were hesitant to reopen, we pushed through nonetheless because we knew we were ready. We have to consider that if we do not reopen, the tourism workers and establishments will suffer,” she said.
There are 745 tourism workers in the town, 120 accommodation establishments, and 23 restaurants.
Tourist arrivals from January to present here accounted for 172,710 visitors to the attractions and 43,821 availed of accommodations.
However, de Guzman said since they reopened last middle of last year, there was no surge in their Covid-19 cases and there were no significant incidents recorded in the town in relation to tourism.
“The award is but a bonus to the effects of the best practices we have been doing in our locality. Nonetheless, it is also recognition of our efforts; the stakeholders, tourism workers, government agency partners, front-liners, and everyone, for that we are grateful,” she said.
Bolinao bested 12 other finalists next to Iloilo City, which got first place. Davao City got third place.
The Pearl Awards this year themed "Search for the Best Tourist Practice During the Pandemic," highlights the various tourism innovations made by the LGU in their destination/area as a reaction to the problems experienced by the industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (PNA)
pna.gov.ph: Pangasinan town 2nd in PH best tourism practice.