BAGUIO CITY – “In tourism, we go beyond political boundaries”, said Sylvia Chinayog of DOT-CAR during the Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting on Tourism Development for the Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay (BLISTT) growth area on February 14. The members of the TWG, composed of local government tourism officers and representatives from the regional offices of the Department of Tourism, DPWH, and NEDA, stressed the need to consolidate a single tourism plan for the BLISTT area.

In the spirit of the BLISTT ideals of expanding economic opportunities beyond Baguio and decongesting the city, Tourism officer Engr. Alec Mapalo of Baguio City said that it is important to pursue a shared tourism plan as the city largely acts as a gateway to the other attractions in BLISTT. “We are already sharing resources, our tourists are your tourists”, said Mapalo.

“Tourists don’t just go to one place. That is why we should talk about tourism circuits”, Chinayog said. Tourism circuits promote a particular route for sites following a specific theme. The TWG listed various sites for tourism circuits in the BLISTT which DOT-CAR and NEDA-CAR will consolidate and prepare for presentation to the BLISTT Governing Council meeting in March. Each circuit will focus on a specific tourism theme such as culture & heritage, food, farm tourism, eco-adventure, and agriculture, among others. Agriculture and food tourism are potential growth areas as “people are now traveling for food”, said Chinayog. The Benguet’s position as a primary source for many high-value crops in Luzon can be leveraged for various kinds of tourism. The TWG also emphasized the eco-tourism and adventure sites such as the Ambongdolan cave in Tublay and Towing waterfalls in Sablan must be developed further.

Overall, the provincial government of Benguet detailed that the LISTT area (Baguio City is excluded from the data presented) accounts for about 70% of tourist arrivals in the province. However, NEDA-CAR noted that there is some concern over data accuracy as only the City of Baguio has the infrastructure to accommodate tourists. Data is therefore skewed towards the city. DOT also shared that the region faces several other challenges such as the region’s susceptibility to natural disasters and DOT-trained tour guides leaving for other countries. The members stressed that the carrying capacity of the sites must be studied and the anticipated rise in traffic when these attractions are developed must be addressed.