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5 Benguet towns join travel corridor in northern Luzon

/ 04:10 AM October 16, 2020

BAGUIO CITY—A private sector-led tourism council has been organized for this city and its five neighboring towns in Benguet province as the local governments collaborate to jump-start their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An interim group of businessmen and government officials will operate the BLISTT (Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay) Tourism Council as the towns prepare to join a travel corridor between Baguio and the Ilocos region.

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The BLISTT is an economic cooperative that was formed to help Baguio City recover from the 1990 Luzon earthquake.

During a BLISTT meeting this month, the Benguet towns committed to include some of their destinations in the “Ridge and Reef” travel corridor, which opened safe tourist spots exclusively to residents of Baguio and the provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

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Their officials, however, have yet to identify the tourism destinations in the travel corridor.

LETTUCE GARDEN Betty Gorospe tends to her lettuce garden in the village of Tawang in La Trinidad, Benguet, as she waits for buyers of fresh salad vegetables. Gorospe, 47, sells her lettuce for only P30 to P50 a kilo but business has been slow as tourists, her top customers, have yet to come. —EV ESPIRITU

Spinoff

The full impact of the pandemic on the BLISTT governments has yet to be determined, but Baguio has so far lost P100 million in potential revenue since the Luzon lockdown in March.

At least P1.6 billion in profits was also lost by the city’s tourism industry when quarantine forced the shutdown of this sector.

The BLISTT Tourism Council was a spinoff from the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC). Gladys Vergara, BTC chair, was elected interim chair of the BLISTT council while Lucia Catanes, daughter of the late Cordillera weaver, Narda Capuyan, who created the brand Narda’s, was elected treasurer.

Pageant benefits

Representatives of farm tourism sites and resorts, as well as local tour guides, will serve as board members of the council. The Department of Tourism and BLISTT tourism officers will be in the secretariat.

The BLISTT council also hopes to benefit from Baguio’s hosting of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant, which is staging its coronation night here on Oct. 25.

Pageant organizers will take the candidates to the tourist-drawing strawberry farms in La Trinidad for photo shoots to promote the town. This is the only out-of-Baguio itinerary of the contestants whose activities are confined at Baguio Country Club until coronation night.

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According to Vergara, easing restrictions on tourists will lessen the impact on livelihood of people displaced by the quarantine.

“We know the fear that was brought about by the pandemic, but it is the same fear we face in the tourism industry … we are also afraid of getting sick,” Vergara said. —VINCENT CABREZA

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TAGS: Baguio, Benguet, Economy, Tourism, Travel
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