LA MILAGROSA COVE. Visitors enjoy the beach at the La Milagrosa Cove in Badoc, Ilocos Norte in this undated photo. Every summer, the spot is one of the most frequently visited sites in Ilocos Norte as boats for hire are also available when visitors want to experience freediving on Badoc Island, which is just a few minutes' ride from the cove in calm weather. (Ilocos Norte Tourism photo)

LAOAG CITY – The province of Ilocos Norte welcomed around 700,000 day visitors over the Holy Week, the highest number so far since the start of the pandemic, according to the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO).

In Pagudpud town, many resorts and homestay owners were back to regular operation, with a significant increase in tourist arrivals and bookings, particularly during the Holy Week.

Nelly Cristobal, president of the Federated Hotels and Resorts of Pagudpud Inc., said Wednesday that all resorts, hotels, and homestays in Pagudpud were fully booked from April 8 to April 18.

"We are so excited because there are a lot of beachgoers and we cannot even accommodate walk-ins already,” Cristobal said, adding that other tourists they can no longer accommodate opted to stay in neighboring Bangui town instead.

Just like in pre-pandemic times, Reslyn Salud, owner of Sophia’s Transient House in Barangay Saud in Pagudpud town, shared her excitement as things had already gone back to normal.

“With a minimal rate increase to cover our expenses in improving our facilities under the new normal, we are thankful that new and loyal guests continue to stay with us,” said Salud, as she opened her residential house to transients with four rooms that can accommodate up to 30 persons.

Even tricycle drivers, local tour guides, and small business owners were delighted by the increasing number of tourists visiting the province's natural attractions and heritage landmarks such as the Patapat viaduct and Saud beach in Pagudpud, Kapurpurawan Rocks Formation, and Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Bangui Bay Windmills, La Virgen Milagrosa Cove and Chapel in Badoc, St. Augustine Church of Paoay, the sand dunes of Suba and Culili, Madongan Dam in Dingras, and the Solsona-Apayao Road, among others.

Aianree Raquel, head of the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office, said Ilocos Norte continues to work in sustaining its gains in the local tourism recovery by ensuring that guests are safe and have a meaningful stay in the province.

Aside from accredited local tour guides, the INTO has deployed 200 tourism workers, utility personnel, and senior citizen guides to 32 tourist destinations in Ilocos Norte to serve as tourist aides.

They were assigned to man tourists assistance desks mostly located at the entrance of local government unit-managed tourist facilities or to act as first-aid personnel in case of emergency. (PNA)