Resumption of Peñafrancia Festival,
well-prepared tourism industry credited
“NAGA was visited by 2,184,287 domestic and foreign tourists in 2022.” This was what Naga City Arts, Culture and Tourism Office Head, Alec Santos, bared to Bicol Mail after his office finalized the tabulation and validation of data submitted by hotels and resorts in Naga.
According to a letter he sent to Mayor Nelson Legacion dated January 27, ACTO was able to account for 97% of total room-nights for the entire year of 2022, exceeding their target of 95%. Naga’s 101 various accommodation establishments offer a total of 3,170 available rooms for visitors, a three-fold increase from the mere 35 left operating after the initial lockdown in March and April of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the 2.2 million tourists, 2,126,765 million were domestic, while the remaining 57,522 came from foreign countries. The relatively small percentage (2.70%) of foreign visitors compared to domestic tourists pales in comparison to pre-pandemic levels which often reached 15% of total arrivals. Santos says that the Philippines and its local destinations has yet to recover its former markets but believes that the presence of an international airport in the Bicol Region will help boost foreign tourist arrivals when international flights begin.
ACTO reported that the first quarter of 2022 (January to March) registered the fewest number of tourists at 412,603 or 18.9%. This was followed by the second quarter (April to June) at 486,232 or 22.3%. Naga witnessed a surge in tourist arrivals in the third quarter (July to September) with 601,617 registered tourists or 27.5% of the total mainly due to the resumption of the Peñafrancia Festival activities.
The last quarter of the year (October to December), however, saw the highest number of tourists at 683,834 or 31.3% of the 2022’s total. Santos attributes this to the traditional homecoming of former Naga residents and their families now residing in other parts of the country and the world.
Last year’s figures were around two-and-a-half times higher than the 839,724 tourist arrivals registered in 2021. It can be recalled that the tourism industry of Naga suffered alongside the rest of the global and national tourism industries in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, plummeting more than 70%. It was also during that time that around 2/3 of registered hotels and resorts in the city closed their doors, leaving thousands of tourism workers unemployed.
To help mitigate the economic impact and to fast track the recovery of the tourism industry, the City Government, thru the ACTO, embarked on several programs to help local tourism enterprises adapt to the new normal.
Santos explained that their office developed tools and procedures to guide tourism businesses and help them reopen and restart operations safely. One such tool as the Covid-19 checklist developed in cooperation with the office of then Vice President Leni Robredo and the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine.
ACTO led multi-agency inspections of business establishments based on the said checklist. They were also instrumental in promoting and encouraging tourism workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, a crucial factor in the safe and quick recovery of the tourism industry, says Santos.
In the same letter to Mayor Legacion, Santos said that the more 2.2 million tourists generated an estimated P48 billion in revenues for the local economy. This was based on the average spending of P21,936 per visitor prior to the pandemic.
The tourism industry is also one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in Naga, with a total of 7,954 workers or 12% of Naga’s total registered labor force, according to the City Government’s data on registered businesses. This does not include those in the informal sector, which may account for around a third of the working age population of the city based on its 2021 Community-Based Monitoring System data.
(Jason B. Neola, CEPPIO)