LAOAG CITY—The Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO) has been assured of about PHP50 million budget for next year.
Aianree Raquel, supervising Tourism Operations Officer, said during the first day of 2019 budget hearing held at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Tuesday that most of the amount will go to the extensive cultural program and promotion of Ilocos Norte as a major gateway of Northern Luzon.
By February, the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival, hailed as the biggest cultural event in northern Philippines, returns with a total budget of PHP11.7 million, inclusive of financial subsidy and cash prizes for participating local government units composed of 21 towns and two cities.
The festival has been drawing the largest crowd of Ilocanos as well as balikbayans, visitors from neighboring provinces, celebrity guests and art and culture enthusiasts. Last year, attendees reached a record-high of more than 50,000.
During the budget deliberation, Raquel said Ilocos Norte won as the country’s Best Tourism-Oriented Province for having a dynamic tourism industry seen through the steady influx of tourists.
He said local tourism revenues, which are derived from the collection of entrance fees, rentals and hotels from provincial government-managed tourism establishments, reach about PHP30 million yearly.
“We have a reasonable spending as we are generating PHP30-million local revenue every year. That is more than half of our budget. Other provinces have no revenues at all. The budget for events is a budget well spent,” Raquel explained in response to some observation that the provincial tourism office is spending too much on events.
Of the total PHP1.6-billion 2019 budget for Ilocos Norte, the tourism department has one of the largest budget allocations.
The Ilocos Norte Tourism Office also plans to host a major tourism convention to promote Ilocos Norte’s best practices on tourism.
“This is also an opportunity to network with tourism officers in the entire country and to create an impact on the private sector,” he said.
For Provincial Board Member Vicentito Lazo, he believes that tourism events have trickle-down effect and the benefit extends to local vendors of “empanada, longganisa and bagnet” among others.
“We don’t see the goodwill of these (tourism) events but the concept of tourism is to bring people and make them spend,” he said in support of the budget.