Zambales posts record guest arrivals in 1st half

IBA, Zambales—The local tourism industry in Zambales is making a huge rebound with visitor arrivals in the first half of 2022 reaching a total of 520,291 in what could be part of the “revenge trip” phenomenon as travelers catch up with vacation lost during the pandemic.

Governor Hermogenes E. Ebdane Jr. said the number of visitors this year surpassed first-half records for the past three years, with a total of 503,161 domestic visitors and 17,130 foreign tourists arriving in the province of January to June of this year.

Travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic had reduced the total number of visitor arrivals here to 72,552, with just 1,063 foreign visitors in 2020, the year the government imposed a lockdown in response to the pandemic .

Ebdane has previously urged local tourism establishments to step up and deliver “more memorable experiences” to visitors. He added that tourists, mostly from Metro Manila, “can’t get enough of Zambales’ attractions that range from mountain camps to beach resorts.”

“We have everything tourists would want, from waterfalls and rivers to beaches and islands,” Ebdane said over the weekend. “And they can enjoy it all in relative safety and comfort, even amid the lingering pandemic.”

“If the growing trend in arrivals continues through the end of the year, we could even exceed pre-pandemic levels this year in visitor arrivals,” he added.

Data from the Zambales Provincial Tourism Office (ZPTO) revealed that the highest number of arrivals this year were recorded during the summer months, with 207,645 locals and 9,210 foreigners arriving in April, and 83 964 inhabitants and 2,950 foreigners in May.

Tourism attracts

ACCORDING to Maria Domitela D. Mora, Director of the ZPTO, most visitors come from Metro Manila with around 60-70%, followed by other provinces with 20-35%.

“The others are residents of Zambales,” Mora said.

She said the city of San Antonio, which is popular as a surf spot, is the biggest tourist attraction among the province’s 13 municipalities with a total of 171,801 visitors – 160,628 domestic visitors and 11,173 foreigners – during of the first six months of the year.

Other main attractions are the cities of: San Narciso, with 70,194 arrivals; Subic, with 64,070; Iba, with 43,113; and, San Felipe, with 33,793.

Mora said visitors are mainly drawn to these towns because of the clean beaches, available adventure sports facilities and comfortable yet affordable accommodation.

Tourism, with the local resort industry prominent, has traditionally provided significant local income to Zambales, which has one of the longest coastlines in the country. The province is home to hundreds of restaurants and hotels that rely on their beachfront location to attract business.

ZPTO records show that before the Covid-19 pandemic, annual visitor arrivals to Zambales regularly approached one million, with a total of 704,277 in 2018 and 755,552 in 2019.

However, this figure fell to 72,552 in 2020 before rebounding with a total of 112,369 arrivals in 2021, as travel and health restrictions eased somewhat.

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