Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat watches a live weaving demo during her inspection of the Bolinao Sungayan Grill River Restaurant on June 21. (DOT photo)

MANILA – Bicycle tours, motorbiking and other outdoor activities are part of the Department of Tourism's recovery plan to spur local tourism in the Ilocos Region, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said Tuesday.

During her three-day visit to Pangasinan, Puyat said the shift in local tourism preferences, as shown in the DOT’s latest domestic travel survey, tourists are now looking to incorporate outdoor activities like hiking and biking in their leisure travel.

In response to the changing traveler preferences, the DOT has its eyes on developing new biking and motorbiking trails in Region 1 such as the Find the One Bike Tour and Motorismo, with trails coursing through the provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

“Region 1 holds so much potential to appeal to tourists under the new normal, given its abundance in nature sites. That is why we are very excited to launch the tourism recovery plan that will introduce new and exciting activities that will provide additional opportunities for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the region. I encourage our kababayans to please travel and support local while observing the necessary health and safety protocols," Puyat said.

The department's regional office has accredited 61 Level 1 Surf Instructors through the Academy of Surf Instructors Philippines (ASI) which will uplift the standards of surfing lessons in the region’s popular surf spots.

Other tourism recovery initiatives of the DOT in Region 1 include the Marian Pilgrimage Tour; specialized training for Inabel textile weavers in Ilocos Sur; the Eastern, Western and Central Pangasinan Tourism Circuit; Bird Watching Tourism Circuit in Ilocos Norte; and the development of eco/nature trails in La Union.

Puyat also highlighted the Tara Na! app, a travel request and contact tracing system funded by the Tourism Promotions Board.

Puyat said this is a collaborative effort between the LGUs and the DOT to unify the region's border controls and to serve as a green lane for tourists coming into the region.

She also unveiled plans to restore and transform the historical Casa Real in Pangasinan -- into the province’s first museum that will enable both locals and tourists to appreciate its rich history.

To fund the restoration of Casa Real, Puyat said the DOT, through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, an attached agency of the DOT, has provided PHP50 million for the project.

Cash aid

Puyat also led a ceremonial awarding of certificates to beneficiaries of the cash assistance program of the DOT and Department of Labor and Employment in Region 1.

As of June 18, the DOT regional office successfully endorsed 2,652 cash aid applications of tourism enterprises from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan.

"The DOT is pleased to announce that a total of 51,083 workers have so far been approved by DOLE Region 1 for a total of PHP255 million in cash assistance," Puyat said.

She added that the bulk of the cash aid allotment for Region 1 went to Pangasinan, with total assistance of PHP187.4 million benefitting 37,478 individuals. (PR)