Pangasinan town seeks nod to reopen to tourists
BOLINAO, Pangasinan, Philippines — Local tourism industry players have asked the provincial government to allow them to accept leisure travelers from provinces and cities under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) to help revive the ailing sector.
In a Jan. 30 petition to Gov. Amado Espino III, Bolinao Business Tourism Association Inc. (BBTAI) said it was hoping to accept visitors in time for the town’s peak season, or between February and May.
Bolinao boasts of pristine beaches, waterfalls, caves and other natural resources which have lured thousands of tourists.
Its 150 accommodation and food establishments have spurred the local economy, but almost all of these businesses have remained closed due to lack of customers amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic.
“We are really down,” said Ronaldi Torres, president of Pangasinan Convention and Visitors Board, who represents the food sector in the board.
BBTAI prefers opening first to tourists in Central Luzon provinces, and this will be discussed by the Pangasinan Inter-Agency Task Force, said provincial tourism officer Malu Amor Elduayan.
Travelers from the region’s Pampanga, Zambales, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Bataan provinces comprise Bolinao’s second biggest tourism market, next to those from Metro Manila.
Since the metropolis is still under general community quarantine (GCQ), BBTAI said guests from the capital region could not yet be accepted.
In 2018, Bolinao hosted 186,487 foreign and domestic overnight tourists, Torres said. The number rose to 200,489 in 2019, only to plummet to 26,000 in 2020 when the pandemic struck.
Allowing MGCQ travelers to visit the town would create chain reactions that benefit their employees, event organizers, food suppliers, municipal vendors, tricycle drivers, boatmen and tourist guides, BBTAI said.
Pangasinan has been open to tourists from the Ilocos region under a “Ridge and Reef” travel corridor with Baguio City, which was piloted in October last year. But Bolinao has not seen many tourists from the Ilocos provinces, which have their own beaches and similar tourist attractions.
Baguio travelers were allowed to visit Pangasinan until the city was placed under GCQ this month.
“We cannot economically survive with this restriction, given all the business factors present at this time,” BBTAI said.
According to the group, MGCQ guests do not crowd its beaches and resorts while the country reels from a steep economic slowdown and people are still reluctant to travel.
“We are only expecting a handful of visitors, mostly our regular guests … We can easily sustain and implement the necessary health protocols,” it said.
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