The Province of Ilocos Norte recently won first place in the 2018 Best Tourism-Oriented Local Government Unit Category of the 13th Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines and Department of Tourism Pearl Awards at the Limketkai Luxe Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City.
The Pearl Awards for Best Tourism Practices of the Philippines was part of the ATOP National Convention, recognizing the efforts of LGUs in advancing the country’s tourism industry.
“Since we started, we have accomplished the fundamental requirements for a well functioning LGU in terms of tourism. We have legislations such as tourism code, investment code, cultural code, and environmental code, and we have established permanent positions for local tourism officers,” said Aian B. Raquel, provincial tourism officer and head of the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office.
“It’s important that the executives have significant accomplishments in terms of administration and legislation,” Raquel added, recognizing the support of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos.
Ilocos Norte is coming off two consecutive runner-up finishes in the Pearl Awards.
For years, the province has been keen on implementing strategies for the protection and conservation of cultural properties, including the establishment of new venues and platforms for local artists, and promotion of the province’s cultural sites, products, and events.
Finalists included the province of Samar and province of Davao del Norte, which placed third and second, respectively.
In particular, Pearl Awards’ screening committee commended the INTO’s Summer Tourism Program. The program immerses both the young and elderly as tour guides in different museums and churches in the province.
“This is the first effort in the country, specifically in the tourism sector, that employs senior citizens as tour guides in museums and churches,” Raquel said.
“This is very special because it shows that our provincial policy on inclusivity is applied in that we employ very diverse demographics―from youth to senior citizens,” she added.
The committee commended the fact that we were able to earn direct tourism revenues from out properties. “Data shows we were able to earn more than what we are spending in the INTO,” Raquel said.
Fees and rentals of government-owned tourist destinations such as the Kapurpurawan rock formation, Malacañang of the North, Paseo de Paoay, La Tabacalera Lifestyle Center, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and the Ilocano Heroes Hall all contribute to provincial revenue.
Moreover, ATOP-DOT cited the Media Incentives Desk (MID), an initiative of Governor Marcos. MID pioneered film tourism in the province through an exchange of benefits and promotion coordinated among LGUs, private establishments, and production companies looking to film within Ilocos Norte.
Last year, Artikulo Uno Productions, the maker of historical epic “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” filmed in the different municipalities of the province.
Also, television series “Bagani,” and several local and international travel magazine shows; cult classics “Himala,” “Ang Panday,” and “Temptation Island” have also used Ilocos Norte as a shoot location over the years.
Final screening of contingents was held on September 22. Ilocos Norte was represented by INTO, city and municipal tourism officers, the youth sector coming from the Ilocos Norte Youth Development Office (INYDO), and other local tourism stakeholders.