TOURIST ARRIVALS. The local government of Naga City recorded a 260-percent hike in tourist arrivals last year, or 839,724 tourist arrivals registered in 2021 to 2,184,287 arrivals in 2022. According to the Naga City Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO), the tourists generated an estimated PHP48 billion in revenues for the local economy. (PNA photo by Jason Neola)

NAGA CITY – A total of 2,184,287 domestic and foreign tourists were recorded to have visited this city in 2022, up by 260 percent from the 839,724 tourist arrivals registered in 2021.

This was reported Friday by Alec Santos, Naga City Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO) head after his office finalized the tabulation and validation of data submitted by hotels and resorts in the city.

"Last year’s figures were around two-and-a-half times higher than the tourist arrivals registered in 2021. It can be recalled that the tourism industry of Naga suffered alongside the rest of the global and national tourism industries in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, plummeting more than 70 percent. It was also during that time that around 2/3 of registered hotels and resorts in the city closed their doors, leaving thousands of tourism workers unemployed," he said in an interview.

For 2022, Santos said ACTO was able to account for 97 percent of total room nights for the entire year of 2022, exceeding their target of 95 percent.

Naga’s 101 various accommodation establishments offer a total of 3,170 available rooms for visitors, a three-fold increase from the mere 35 left operating after the initial lockdown in March and April of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Of the 2.2 million tourists, 2,126,765 million were domestic, while the remaining 57,522 came from foreign countries. The relatively small percentage (2.70 percent) of foreign visitors compared to domestic tourists pales in comparison to pre-pandemic levels which often reached 15 percent of total arrivals," Santos noted.

Santos said that the more than 2.2 million tourists generated an estimated PHP48 billion in revenues for the local economy. This was based on the average spending of PHP21,936 per visitor prior to the pandemic.

The tourism industry is also one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in Naga, with a total of 7,954 workers or 12 percent of Naga’s total registered labor force, according to the City Government’s data on registered businesses.

This does not include those in the informal sector, which may account for around a third of the working-age population of the city based on its 2021 community-based monitoring system data.

ACTO reported that the first quarter of 2022 (January to March) registered the fewest number of tourists at 412,603 or 18.9 percent. This was followed by the second quarter (April to June) at 486,232 or 22.3 percent. Naga witnessed a surge in tourist arrivals in the third quarter (July to September) with 601,617 registered tourists or 27.5 percent of the total mainly due to the resumption of the Peñafrancia Festival activities.

The last quarter of the year (October to December) saw the highest number of tourists at 683,834 or 31.3 percent of 2022’s total.

Santos attributed this to the traditional homecoming of former Naga residents and their families now residing in other parts of the country and the world.

Meanwhile, he said the Philippines and its local destinations have yet to recover their former markets but believes that the presence of an international airport in the Bicol Region will further help boost foreign tourist arrivals when international flights begin.

To help mitigate the economic impact and to fast-track the recovery of the tourism industry, the city government, thru the ACTO, embarked on several programs to help local tourism enterprises adapt to the new normal.

Santos said their office also developed tools and procedures to guide tourism businesses and help them reopen and restart operations safely. One such tool is the Covid-19 checklist, which was developed in cooperation with the office of former Vice President Leni Robredo and the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine.

ACTO led multi-agency inspections of business establishments based on the said checklist. They were also instrumental in promoting and encouraging tourism workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, a crucial factor in the safe and quick recovery of the tourism industry, he said. (PNA)