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Iloilo City has made national headlines because of its quick, responsive COVID-19 response. From the swift procurement of testing kits to the organized community kitchen that has served almost two million meals, the local government’s initiative was considered impressive.
Now, the city is yet again taking the spotlight for its tourism infrastructure recovery efforts amid the pandemic.
Rehabilitation of Public Spaces
Earlier this year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) allocated P340 million for Iloilo City’s tourism infrastructure, as reported by Manila Bulletin. Among the projects included in the package is the restoration of three popular plazas in the area, namely Molo Plaza, Arevalo Plaza, and La Paz Plaza. The budget for such rehabilitation projects is set at P135 million.
In the local government proposal forwarded to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) last year, the rehabilitation was said to be part of the local government’s efforts to provide good public spaces that will serve as sites for outdoor leisure and community-building, BusinessWorld reported. The office has also recognized it as a way to attract tourists and investors.
Iloilo City has an excellent track record in sprucing up public spaces. In 2018, the municipality’s river park, popularly called the Iloilo Esplanade, emerged as one of the winners of the Haligi ng Dangal Awards from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), as mentioned in this Manila Bulletin news article.
The longest linear park in the country was honored for offering a space for recreation and peace and quiet, while strengthening the connection between the river, city, and people.
Tourism Recovery Plan
According to Sunstar, the City Tourism and Development Office has been gearing up for the promotion of its tourist attractions, with the aim of increasing revenues, generating jobs, and spurring economic growth, as community quarantine measures ease in the municipality.
The local government has put up a five-point plan in reviving the vibrant tourism in the area. These are among the office’s priorities:
- Safety and security. Right at the airport and seaport, there will be a COVID Testing Center and swabbing booths. Compliance officers will be stationed in key areas in the city, implementing all the health safety standards and requirements from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). Tourism establishments would have to follow health protocols and secure Certificate of Authority to Operate from the DOT.
- Preparation for the new normal. Tourism establishments will be under mandatory accreditation from the DOT and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Tourism frontliners, such as tour guides and drivers, will undergo a series of online training. Attractions, on the other hand, will be improved, along with the city’s products. Supporting active transportation, a safe and healthy way of moving around, the LGU will put more bike lanes in the area.
- Opening of tourist sites and establishments to locals and inter-region travelers. Museums, bars and entertainment centers, and coffee shops will be open until night, but will observe curfew protocols. The city will host local product exhibitions as well.
- Health and safety protocols in local events. Strict health and safety measures will be observed in festivities, such as the Iloilo City Charter Day on August 25, Iloilo Arts Festival in October, and December Festival of Lights, among others.
- Promotion of tourism. A photo or vlogging contest will be held with the aim of encouraging people to see attractions in the city. The Mural Project, giving public walls to local artists as canvasses, will continue as part of making the arts scene more alive in Iloilo. Virtual tours will also be held to pique the interest of domestic tourists.
Positive Outlook for Tourism
Beyond the plans, Iloilo City has seen completion in some of its development projects. For instance, upgrades in Estancia Port and Iloilo Commercial Port Complex were already finished, according to BusinessWorld. The former is the main sea transportation in Northern Iloilo, while the latter has accommodated the maiden visit of a cruise ship last year.
The inauguration of the projects was held virtually, as traditional ceremony isn’t possible under the community quarantine measures. With these transportation hubs modernized, the city is expected to experience vibrant tourism yet again, moving forward.
Sources: PNA, Manila Bulletin, BusinessWorld, Sunstar