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 travel” phenomenon as travelers made up for lost vacations during the pandemic.
Gov. Hermogenes E. Ebdane Jr. said this year’s visitors tally surpassed first semester records in the last three years, as a total of 503,161 domestic visitors and 17,130 foreign tourists arrived in the province from January to June this year.
Travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic had curtailed total visitor arrivals here to 72,552, with only 1,063 foreign visitors in 2020, the year government imposed a lockdown in response to the pandemic.
Ebdane earlier urged local tourism establishments to step up and dish out “more memorable experiences” to visitors. He added that tourists, mostly from Metro Manila, “cannot get enough of Zambales attractions that range from mountain camps to seaside resorts.”
“We have everything that tourists would want—from waterfalls and rivers to beaches and islands,” Ebdane said over the weekend. “And they can enjoy all of these in relative safety and comfort even under the continuing pandemic.”
“If the growing arrival trend continues until the yearend, we may even outdo this year the pre-pandemic levels as far as visitor arrivals is concerned,” he added.
Data from the Zambales Provincial Tourism Office (ZPTO) revealed that the biggest number of arrivals this year was recorded in the summer months, with 207,645 locals and 9,210 foreigners arriving in April, and 83,964 locals and 2,950 foreigners coming in May.
ACCORDING to ZPTO Manager Maria Domitela D. Mora, most of the visitors come from Metro Manila with about 60 percent to 70 percent, followed by other provinces which account for 20 to 35 percent.”
“The rest are residents of Zambales,” Mora said.
She said that San Antonio town, which is popular as a surfing spot, is the biggest tourism draw among the 13 municipalities in the province with a total of 171,801 visitors—160,628 domestic visitors and 11,173 foreigners—in the first six months of the year.
The next top attractions are the towns of: San Narciso, with 70,194 arrivals; Subic, with 64,070; Iba, with 43,113; and, San Felipe, with 33,793.
Mora said visitors were drawn mostly to these towns because of clean beaches, available adventure sports facilities, and comfortable but affordable accommodation.
Tourism, with the local resort industry at the forefront, has traditionally provided significant local revenue for Zambales, which has one of the longest coastlines in the country. The province hosts hundreds of restaurants and hotels that rely on their seaside location to attract business.
ZPTO records show that before the Covid-19 pandemic, annual visitor arrivals in Zambales consistently came close to a million, with a total of 704,277 in 2018 and 755,552 in 2019.
However, this dipped to a low 72,552 in 2020 before bouncing back with a total of 112,369 arrivals in 2021, as travel and health restrictions somewhat eased.