September 30, 2007

Prov’l tourism summit launched
Keon highlights environment protection, preservation

STRIVING to maximize the potentials of the tourism industry in the province, the Ilocos Norte Provincial Tourism Office, along with the Department of Tourism, joined together to organize the first tourism summit in the province held September 25 at the Provincial Capitol Auditorium.

Attended by hotel and restaurant owners and managers, tour operators, tour guides, tourism officer, provincial legislators, mayor, members of the academe and non-government organizations, the summit aims to gather all tourism stakeholders in the province for them to come up with a consensus on working together in bringing in more tourists to the province by providing better and quality services.

With the theme “Strength in Numbers—Moving Forward Together,” Ilocos Norte Gov. Michael M. Keon told the participants that being unified in promoting Ilocos Norte as a tourist destination would give the province a clear direction in addressing tourism weaknesses and boost its socio-economic development.

“If we are unified and united, the we become much stronger,” the governor said.

However, the influx of tourist in the province that would generate local employment and revenues in various tourism sites should not be a reason for them not to be environmentally conscious as he stressed that the environment integrity of the province must be preserved and the ecological balance be enhanced.

“In our pursuit for the tourism dollar and peso, we must never sacrifice the environment integrity of the province of Ilocos Norte. This is an absolute, non-negotiable policy of mine,” Keon said as he admitted that this is easier to say than to do considering the livelihood opportunities, job-generation and the higher income the province could generate by allowing tourism investment.

But if these businesses, like more factories, hotels, resorts, including forms of mining/dredging would compromise the province’s “environment integrity” Keon added: “I would prefer to forego it and not pursue it because the very thing that we have to attract others is the beauty of our environment.”

According to Keon, everybody appreciates the beauty, cleanliness and unpolluted province of Ilocos Norte as he enjoined all tourism stakeholders that “We have to keep it that way.”

The six areas of concern the summit tackled are: manpower education and training; tourism infrastructure; promoting Ilocos Norte; developing new tourism destinations; cooperation and competition; and ecological and environmental concerns.

After the summit, the participants came up with a manifesto wherein they expressed their intent to foster better working relationships among concerned authorities in the promotion of tourism in the province.

For his part, DOT Region I Director Martin Valera expressed his full support to the Ilocos Norte government’s effort to assist in the tourism industry.

Of the four provinces in Region I, Valera said Ilocos Norte is considered as the number one tourist destination as manifested by the traffic of daily flights at the Laoag International Airport and the growing number of tour operations and the mushrooming of hotels and restaurants in the province.

Leilanie G. Adriano

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