Zambales tourism picking up; 500,000 visitors in 6 months
SAN ANTONIO, Zambales, Philippines — The province saw a gradual increase in tourist arrivals during the first half of this year after community lockdowns and travel restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic forced many tourism-related establishments to stop operations in the last two years.
Data released by the provincial tourism office on Monday showed that at least 520,291 tourists visited Zambales from January to June. The figure was expected to outpace annual arrivals recorded in the province before the pandemic was declared in March 2020.
According to Domitela Mora, provincial tourism officer, majority (503,161) of the visitors are domestic tourists, while 17,130 are foreigners.
“Most of the visitors came from Metro Manila, accounting for about 60 to 70 percent of the total arrivals. Foreign and local residents make up the remaining 30 or 40 percent,” Mora said in a statement.
The biggest number of arrivals was recorded during the summer months, with 207,645 locals and 9,210 foreigners arriving in April, and 83,964 locals and 2,950 foreigners arriving in May.
San Antonio town, which is known for beaches and coves, was the most visited destination among the province’s 13 towns.
Mora said 171,801 tourists explored San Antonio in the first half of the year. At least 160,628 of them were domestic visitors, while 11,173 were foreign travelers.
The next top attractions were the towns of San Narciso (70,194 tourists), Subic (64,070), Iba (43,113) and San Felipe (33,793).
“If the growing arrival trend continues until the year ends, we may even outdo this year the prepandemic levels as far as visitor arrivals are concerned,” said Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
Prior to the pandemic, tourist arrivals in the province were steadily hitting almost a million. Zambales registered 704,277 tourists in 2018 and 755,552 in 2019.
But mobility restrictions during the pandemic caused arrivals to drop to 72,552 in 2020, with only 1,063 foreign visitors.
Signs of recovery began to surface in 2021 when restrictions were eased and 112,369 tourists visited the province.
According to Mora, the local resort industry remained at the “forefront” of the improving tourism sector in Zambales, providing “significant revenue” for the province.
The tourism office, however, has yet to determine the amount generated from the tourism-related activities this year.
—JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT
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