With the tourism sector gearing for a full recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, local officials in Laguna are now looking into ways to further improve and rebuild Laguna’s tourism sector which was hardest hit during the pandemic.
Laguna province is more than just hot spring resorts or natural wonders.
That was the new guiding direction steering the province’s tourism industry as the provincial government gathered together investors for its Laguna Business Stakeholders Forum in Calamba City in Laguna last February 8.
Some 32 private companies, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as government agencies, and members of the media joined the forum, that was aimed at strengthening coordination between business and government as the province recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One main focus of the business forum was how to further improve Laguna’s tourism sector, which badly suffered from the pandemic.
Evidently, the province's tourism sector was suffered massive economic hardship during the pandemic.
A study commissioned by students from the University of the Philippines - Los Baños (UPLB) campus in 2022 estimated the total loss of revenue due to the pandemic at P1.72 billion between March 2020 and February 2021 – and that’s just for the famed hot-spring resorts operating in Calamba City and Los Baños.
In fact, some of these resorts have reportedly shut down with the high cost of maintenance and in “adapting” to the health protocols being implemented at the time. Besides, there was absolutely no patronage.
“Ninety-three percent of the respondents identified loss of income as the top effect of the pandemic due to the restrictions on travel and leisure, followed by reduced employee salary (38 percent) ...MSMEs continued to experience reduced demand for the goods and services they produced and, consequently, their revenues,” the study had noted at the time.
At the forum, officials of the provincial government (re)introduced its “Love Laguna” campaign which was officially launched last July 2022.
According to Pamela Jane Baun of the Laguna Tourism Culture Arts and Trade Office (LTCATO), the "Love Laguna" campaign is geared at making local and foreign tourists “rediscover” the province’s tourist attractions and major industries.
“This 2023, full blast po ang ating pagpapapasok ng turista sa ating probinsya, and it is just what fitting na ang promotion natin ngayon ay to discover all the wonders that we have in Laguna,” Baun explained at the forum.
"More than simply being a resort capital, we also have our rich culture, our natural wonders, exciting adventures, gastronomic delights, world-class products and multi-talented people," she added.
The “Love Laguna” campaign is also borne out of a need to adapt to the changing tastes of a new generation of tourists, the tourism officer noted.
“Dati po kasi, ang mga turista, nagsa-shopping lang, basta kapag mapunta sa ibang lugar, yung makilala nila yung churches, that’s enough for them. But the new generation of tourists want adventure, they want fun. Gusto na nila yung ‘Instragrammable’ places. And we have that here in Laguna – marami po tayong ‘Instagrammable’ places, marami tayong new adventures to discover.”
Some stakeholders, however, mentioned at the open forum that there are still issues to resolve in the province’s campaign to boost its tourism sector, especially in the third and fourth districts where development and infrastructure are lagging.
Among the challenges posed by stakeholders are the lack of access to transportation and heavy traffic which prolong travel time to some tourist destinations in the province.
In response, Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez touted the public-private partnership (PPP) agreements between the provincial government and private corporations to construct additional roads as part of the Laguna Lake Road Network, which will run from Taguig City to Bay in Laguna.
“Mayroon na kasing master plan para diyan [ang national government] under the Laguna Lake Road Network. Kaya lang, it’s impossible na ma-implement agad ng national government, kaya yung parte from Calamba City to Bay ay inako na ng provincial government,” Hernandez explained.
The governor added that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, as well as the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), have made efforts to “fast-track” the Laguna Lake Road Project and that he expects to give the go-signal for the project before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Dalisay Ocampo of the Alliance of Laguna Travel and Tour Agencies (ALLTA) added that travel agencies in the province, in cooperation with the LTCATO and the Department of Tourism (DOT), have done a series of "calibrations" of Laguna's tourist destinations in order to maximize their marketability to tourists.
Stakeholders and government officials agreed on homegrown recruitment to accommodate the rapid expansion of businesses, especially in the third and fourth districts of the province.
According to the Laguna Provincial Public Employment Service Office (PESO), the provincial government has set up the Province of Laguna Employment and Information System (PLEIS), an interactive job application portal for local jobseekers.
“With the PLEIS, you have the freedom to invite applicants, you have the freedom to choose among registered applicants kung sino po gusto niyo or qualified sa inyo,” Mary Jane Corcuera of the Laguna PESO said.
“We are still developing this program para dumating sa punto na you can advertise this. Isa pa po na pinoprograma namin is through this portal, we can easily identify which has the highest demand dito po sa Laguna so we can provide intervention programs, dahil alam natin lahat tayo nahihirapan narin sa paghahanap ng aplikante.”