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BAGUIO CITY – The city’s tourism industry and similarly situated businesses continue to be heavily impacted by the Corona Virus Disease (COVID) 2019 pandemic amidst ongoing efforts by the tourism department and local governments to revive the same.
Last year alone, Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong disclosed that the local tourism industry suffered over P3.5 billion losses in potential income from what normally would have been tourist arrivals.
From the estimated 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2019, he reported that visitors who arrived in the city in 2020 were more than 232,000, seven times lower than the recorded tourist arrivals during the preceding year.
At the height of the implementation of the Luzonwide lockdown or from April to June last year, the local chief executive stated that the local tourism industry already suffered more than P1.6 billion losses in potential income while the thousands of workers in the various industries related to tourism lost more than P550 million in unrealized wages.
However, the city mayor revealed that Baguio City was able to generate some P1.8 billion income from the tourist arrivals last year, the highest among premier tourist destinations in the country after the city open its doors to tourists in October with the implementation of the Ridge to Reef tourism bubble between Baguio and the Ilocos Region.
Magalong further reported that one of the initial assistance provided by the city government to the heavily impacted tourism sector, some P100 million was earmarked for the Baguio Revitalization Actions for a Vibrant Economy–Economic Stimulus Package (BRAVE-ESP) to pave the way for micro, small enterprises to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ironically, only more than P20 million from the aforesaid stimulus package was loaned by the qualified businesses. Target beneficiaries are cautions even if they heavily impacted as they not sure of the viable future of their operations that will allow them to repay their loans given that there is a continuous increase in the number of COVID cases in various parts of the country aside from the varying community quarantine status being implemented by the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases.
He admitted that the city’s economy heavily relies on tourism that is why efforts are now being undertaken by the local government in coordination with concerned government agencies to gradually and safely open the local tourism industry but with strict adherence to the implementation of minimum health protocols.
Aside from the mandatory registration in the city’s online registration platform, visita.baguio.gov.ph, visitors are mandated to present their negative Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) or antigen tests as part of the requirements before being allowed entry to the city.
Initially, three accommodation facilities have already permanently closed while there are other similarly situated establishments that suffered tremendous losses although owners are still pinning their hopes for the possible revival of the said industry to allow the city to regain its status as one of the premier tourist destinations in the country.
By Dexter A. See