BALER, Aurora -- The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) presiding officer here said that a tourism code that will govern all tourism activities in this province is being eyed for enactment to further boost tourism arrivals in the province.
Vice Gov. Rommel Rico Teh Angara told a press briefing that the code is one of important pieces of legislations they intend to pass to include an environment code.
Angara said the SP has been coordinating with the various local government units (LGUs) for the passage of their respective tourism codes that will be fine-tuned with the tourism thrusts of the provincial government.
The code will also address the issue of overdevelopment, the same problem that hobbles Boracay. “This is one thing we are also looking to avoid,” he said.
Tourist arrivals in this province, located in a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, have been on the rise since a decade ago although only 10 percent of its tourist potentials have been harnessed, according to a top tourism official.
A provincial tourism officer said tourist arrivals may have reached an all-time high 770,000 in 2015 but these could have been much higher if other prospective tourist destinations in Aurora have been developed, particularly in the northern portion of the province.
“As it appears now, we were only able to maximize 10 percent of Aurora’s tourism potentials,” he said.
The province is gearing for the further development of tourist spots in Dipaculao town and in the northern municipalities of Dinalungan, Casiguran and Dilasag, known collectively as the Dicadi area.
“Definitely, our direction is going up north and roads are now being concreted leading to tourist destinations,” he said, citing a P200-million road network leading to the Casapsapan beach in Casiguran which is now becoming famous because of its powdery white sand.
The road-concreting project is being undertaken under the Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP), a convergence initiative of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Earlier, local tourism officials admitted the tourism industry in Aurora is still rising in terms of tourist arrivals but it may be suffering a slowdown as the 2015 figures posted only a slight increase than in 2014 where a marked percentage hike in visitor arrivals was recorded.
Records from the provincial tourism office showed that the number of tourists for 2015 reached 778,917, up from 684,977, representing a percentage increase of 13.71% over the previous year.
However, the percentage increase in 2014 was considerably much higher at 151.66% over that of 2013. The 684,977 tourist arrivals in 2014 was a giant leap from 2013’s 272,182.
Palispis said the slowdown means that the province needs to step up its tourism promotion activities in order to invite more tourists.
In July last year, Palispis predicted that visitor arrivals could reach up to one million by end of 2015 after arrivals reached 353,400 in the first four months of last year, more than half of last year’s total.
Ana Riza Mendoza, provincial senior tourism operations officer, said that of the eight towns, only this capital town has so far enacted a tourism code amid the tourist surge.
Tourist arrivals in 2015 was at its highest in May with 191,182 tourist arrivals followed by 170,639 in April. The lowest recorder arrivals were in October with 17,527 and in December with 18,692.
The province is home to pristine, white sand beaches, waterfalls, virgin forests and historical and cultural sites.
The tourism industry in the province has been on an upswing since 2005 when only 8,744 tourists were recorded, representing a whopping 2,351 percent increase over the eight-year period up to 2012 where tourist arrivals reached 215,098.