Despite Covid-19, visitor arrivals, receipts rise rapidly in Pampanga


Special to the BusinessMirror

VISITOR arrivals in Pampanga reached 2.25 million in the first half of the year since the province reopened in October. This was up at a staggering 261.33 percent from 622,705 recorded in the same period last year.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed visitor receipts likewise surged to a hefty P11.27 billion from January to June this year, up 262.4 percent from P3.11 billion last year.

The province has been given an extra boost with the DOT assisting local officials create more products to attract domestic tourists.

In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the agency recently conducted a rapid assessment of the province’s tourism sites, key infrastructure, manpower skills, and market profiling, as a step to improve its  promotions programs. Part of DOT’s mandate, she stressed, is “to help local government units in formulating their local tourism development plans, providing the overall direction toward sustainable tourism development aligned with the national tourism development plan.”

For one, “Pampanga is undertaking initiatives related to food mapping to take advantage of its culture and culinary strength and to promote local tourism,” she noted. The province hosted in June Kain Na, the DOT’s headline food and travel festival.

The DOT also provided technical assistance to the administrators of the Mt. Arayat National Park in establishing its reopening guidelines.

More tourism workers vaxxed

As this developed, Pampanga received 2,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on August 12; this will cover both first and second jabs of 1,000 active tourism frontliners in City of San Fernando.

 DOT-Region 3 (Central Luzon) and the Pampanga local government tied up with SM City Pampanga for the vaccine rollout.

 Romulo Puyat stressed the importance of a faster inoculation across the industry and its stakeholders to aid in the country’s economic recovery. Prior to the pandemic, tourism contributed close to 13 percent of the gross domestic product. This slipped to just 5.4 percent of the GDP in 2020. 

“It’s very important for our tourism workers to be vaccinated, especially with the emergence of new variants. Hence, the Department is supporting every initiative to inoculate every tourism worker in the country as soon as possible,” Romulo Puyat said in her speech during the ceremonial vaccination program at SM Pampanga. She was joined in the event by National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon, Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda, and San Fernando Mayor Edwin D. Santiago.

While Pampanga has been open for leisure travelers since October 2020, the growing number of Covid cases, including the emergence of new variants have prompted the province to increase travel restrictions. This includes requiring non-residents and unauthorized persons to present a negative RT-PCR test taken 48 hours prior to entry. 

76% of Bohol target reached

In a related development, the province of Bohol received an additional 22,520 doses of Covid vaccines on August 11 — 10,000 doses were Sinovac, another 10,000 were Pfizer, and 2,520 were Moderna. 

With the new vaccine deliveries, the DOT said, 9,920 tourism workers will have received their first jabs, accounting for 76 percent of the targeted 13,000 for vaccination.

“With the arrival of more vaccines, the DOT looks forward to the vaccination of those employed in tourism support services as well, such as tricycle drivers, massage therapists, and porters among others,” said Romulo Puyat in brief remarks before the ceremonial vaccination last Wednesday in Panglao Island. “With everyone’s cooperation, we hope to see Bohol regain its popularity as a premier tourism destination, for both local and international travelers,” she added.

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, visitor arrivals in Bohol reached 1.58 million, up 5.6 percent from the arrivals in 2018. Of the total arrivals in the province, 854,853 were domestic tourists, and 727,051 were foreign tourists, according to data provided by DOT-Central Visayas.Gov. Arthur Yap, who was also present at the vaccination ceremony, has suspended air and sea travel to Bohol until August 20 to help curb the increase of Covid cases in their province.

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