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1st to accept visitors in pandemic, Baguio tourism sees resurgence

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BAGUIO City continues to be among the most popular tourist destinations in the country, with the month-long Panagbenga flower festival this year helping attract more visitors.

In a news statement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said 57,241 tourists had already visited Baguio City in January alone. Last year, it attracted some 1.04 million domestic and international travelers, just 31 percent less than its pre-pandemic arrivals of 1.5 million in 2019. The City of Pines was among the first destinations in the country to reopen to leisure travelers at the height of the pandemic, pioneering the use of a travel entry app funded by the DOT’s marketing arm.

In her speech at the grand parade of floats on Sunday, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said, “The vigor with which you have developed your city as a community, uniting it to celebrate your culture and traditions, reflects your undying passion to promote Baguio as a haven for arts and culture. Without question, the Panagbenga Festival, which started as a community endeavor, has evolved into a now world-class celebration. A major tourism driver in Northern Luzon, Panagbenga reflects a season of blooming. Since its inception in 1996, it has played a significant role in both the local economic and national tourism development of this city and our country,”

For his part, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said, “This grand float parade is more than just a stunning display of artistry. It is a testament to our collective identity. A statement of our resolve to stay true to our roots while embracing the future. It is a call to unite, to celebrate, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.” About 14,000 tourists were estimated to have visited Baguio for the Panagbenga Festival, which included street-dancing on Saturday. With the theme this year,  “A Renaissance of Wonder and Beauty,” the festival ends on March 5 with a grand fireworks display.

The DOT chief also announced her intention to include Baguio City in her agency’s flagship “Philippine Experience” program, which aims to attract more tourists to local destinations, through heritage, culture, and  arts caravans.

“We cannot wait to bring the Philippine Experience here to Baguio so that people from all over the Philippines and all over the world can rediscover the beauty of Baguio.”

She added, “Baguio City, with all its colors, its people, its tradition, and your history and heritage combined, indeed has made and will continue to make a lasting imprint on our visitors’ memories and build a positive image of your city and our country. These aspects form part of the holistic approach the Department of Tourism wishes to pursue for tourism development. And we are very happy to find in Baguio a partner in this regard.”

Frasco was also in Laoag City with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday at the celebration of the Tan-ok Festival, a a dance-off among 23 towns and cities of Ilocos Norte. (See, “NZ govt keeps Level 2 travel advice for PHL after Kiwi slay,” in the BusinessMirror, February 27, 2023.)

Speaking further about the “Philippine Experience” program, to be launched this summer, the Tourism Secretary said, “We at the DOT will amplify our Philippine Experience caravans so that more provinces, cities, and municipalities  will have opportunities to be highlighted and more MSMEs [micro-, small, and  medium enterprises] will have a chance to showcase their products and services.”

The “Philippine Experience” program was inspired by the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo program pioneered by Frasco’s mother, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, to promote the products and tourism destinations in the province.

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