Saturday, May 18, 2024

Tanay’s tourism charm beckons

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TANAY, Rizal—Local government officials here remain optimistic the rebound of tourism in this destination east of Manila continues steadily after a hiccup due to Covid-19.

While some visitors and tourists, mostly Filipinos, consider Tanay as “the next Tagaytay,” officials like Tanay Planning and Development Officer Jefferey M. Pino want to avoid such comparison.

Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal

“We have our own identity, we are Tanay,” Pino told the BusinessMirror.

And that self-image is shown in the numbers provided by the Tanay Tourism Office (TTO): last year saw the number of visitors to local tourist attractions—the Daranak Falls, for one—hitting roughly 4.81 million.

This was an increase of about three million from the number of tourist arrivals of nearly 1.54 million in 2021. The rise in the number was posted after the government issued travel guidelines, TTO and Public Information Officer Joicee Jules B. Gapido told the BusinessMirror.

Naapektuhan ang tourism pero somehow doon nagsulputan ang gastronomic tourism, along different parts of Tanay [Tourism was affected but gastronomic tourism started to develop along different parts of Tanay],” Gapido said.

“Tourism is bouncing back, ngayong taong 2023 maganda ang pasok ng [there’s a promising trend in] arrivals ng tourism,” she added.

Overnight stay, camping

TTO data showed that the number of tourists hit a peak of about 5.13 million in 2019. This plunged to about 1.24 million as government imposed lockdown measures in March of 2020 to stem the spread of Covid-19.

But things appear to be looking up as the TTO recorded arrivals reaching 387,802 in January this year.

The number of visitors staying a night in this first-class municipality also dropped to 138,416 in 2020 from about 1.015 million in 2019.

The number of guests staying overnight in 2021 inched up to 160,941 and even tripled to 349,969 last year. A total of 33,670 travelers have already spent the night in Tanay last January, TTO data showed.

This steady increase prompted the Department of Tourism (DOT) Calabarzon office to recognize Tanay for having the third-most number of overnight stay arrivals in 2021 and second highest in the region for the most number of same-day arrivals also that year. The DOT-Calabarzon also noted Tanay’s “relentless commitment to the enhancement and development of local tourism, reinforcing service standards and consistent generation of tourism information and data.”

According to Gapido, the municipality is known for its “breathtaking” hiking trails. She said many recognize Tanay as the “Home of Adventure and Nature Experience,” especially with its flagship Daranak Falls.

Gapido admitted the lockdowns slashed the number of hikers. Nonetheless, with the popularity of “glamping”—a more luxurious type of camping compared to traditional stay in outdoor tents—the number of campgrounds and related businesses progressively rose.

She believes “the pandemic caused a great deal of stress for many individuals who needed to unwind by spending time in nature.”

Tanay part of Sierra Madre viewed from Boso-Boso. (BM/Bernard Testa)

Contribution to economy

GAPIDO emphasized that tourism is important to Tanay as the activity contributes to revenues of businesses and, of course, the local government.

“The more tourists, the more income we will get. Bukod sa binabayad nila, makakatulong sila in terms of kumain sila sa mga restaurants, bumili sila sa tindahan  [Apart from the fees, tourists help when they eat at restaurants and buy at stores here],” she explained to the BusinessMirror.

Likewise, Tanay also earns from its Community-Based Rural Tourism (CBRT) program. Under this, a visitor must fork over P100 prior to entry to a tourist attraction or hiking.

Gapido said of the fee, P50 goes to the local government of Tanay, P30 to the barangay where the attraction is located or covers the hiking trail and P20 to indigenous peoples (IP).

She said revenues from the CBRT eventually fund the safeguarding tasks of the mountains, as these are where most tourists go.

Prior to the lockdown, the TTO recorded about P8.195 million in revenues from the CBRT program in 2019. Despite the lockdowns a year later, revenues from CBRT fees collection hit about P2.064 million.

The revenues, through the CBRT program, inched to P2.512 million in 2021 and to nearly P3.409 million last year after the Tanay local government allowed local tourism operations to return to normal.

The Tanay local government expects to further increase the revenue share from the CBRT, as there’s a proposal to charge campers with an ecotourism fee. The proposal is currently under third reading at the town council.

Education, training

ACCORDING to Pino, part of the fees charged through the CBRT goes to the training and education of the Dumagat IPs who call the mountains of Tanay their home.

He said they had to wean the Dumagats from charcoal production as this has led to deforestation.

Pino estimates the local government has trained about 50 percent of the total population of IPs in tour guiding. Non-Dumagats were also trained to appreciate and highlight the culture and life of the Dumagat IP tribe.

Kailangan Filipino brand of service ang binibigay natin [What we provide must be a Filipino brand of service],” he said.

Gapido added that the local government of Tanay also provides training and seminars to restaurants and businesses accredited by the DOT. She said the sessions aim to make these institutions’ executives and employees understand and speak more about the local culture and taste, like Tanay cuisine. The seminars also emphasize hospitality services to enhance tourists’ experience.

Documents that the Tanay Business Permit and Licensing Office provided to the BusinessMirror revealed there are currently 11 registered hotels and resorts, 67 restaurants and 24 authorized campsites have met the standards and clearances of the Tanay local government and the DOT.

Gapido said that keeping standards for businesses engaged in tourism-related activities is significant as this supports the local economy and its development.

“We are reminding them; we are requiring them to be DOT-accredited establishments, because the DOT sets the standards,” she added.

Balance

AS Tanay witnesses the continuing revival of its tourism sector, Gapido believes the local government still has an elbow room for further growth and investment.

Nonetheless, she said investors must brace for a ton of paper work.

“If you have plans of doing business in the upland barangays, at lalo na kung under ito ng protected areas, marami kang clearances na dapat gawin. Kasi kailangan ma-balance ’yung kita ng pera, balance ng ekonomiya at balance ng environment [If you have plans to do business in the upland barangays, especially if it’s in protected areas, you must secure several clearances because we need to balance profit, the economy and the environment],” Gapido told the BusinessMirror.

Tanay constitutes 16.91 percent of Rizal’s total land area. The municipality also forms part of the 26,125.64-hectare Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape. This protected area includes parts of Antipolo City and Baras, Rodriguez, San Mateo, Rizal.

Gapido believes an investor won’t incur losses due to Tanay’s natural attractions and continuous influx of tourists.

Magandang mag-invest ng farm tourism dito sa Tanay [Farm tourism is a good investment here],” she said.

Indeed, Tanay beckons to the weary: look East, and you won’t regret it.

*John Eiron, a student at the University of Rizal System in Angono, is currently on internship with the BusinessMirror.

Image credits: Nico Aquino | Dreamstime.com, Walter Eric Sy | Dreamstime.com

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