IBA, Zambales — While travel restrictions and border controls under the COVID-19 pandemic hobbled the country’s tourism industry, more establishments catering to visitors mushroomed in the last three years in Zambales, which boasts of beaches and other nature-themed attractions.
Local tourism statistics indicated that as of August this year, accommodation establishments in Zambales totaled 340—more than double that of the 2018 pre-pandemic count of 151.
Provincial Tourism Officer Tel Mora said that the phenomenal growth of accommodation establishments here is attributable to the rise of new attractions that were developed during the pandemic to provide visitors with open spaces where they could have both leisure and safety.
“Aside from beach hotels and restaurants that offer open-air dining, three other accommodation types had surfaced and became hugely popular in the last three years: pool resorts, farm resorts, and campsites,” Mora pointed out.
“These definitely helped local tourism to bounce back after an initial slowdown at the start of the pandemic,” she added.
Mora said that from the record of 692,380 local arrivals and 62,761 foreign arrivals in 2019, Zambales tourism declined to just 71,552 local and 1,063 foreign arrivals in 2020.
But new attractions perked up the trend to 100,488 local and 3,340 foreign arrivals in 2021, and then to 503,161 domestic visitors and 17,130 foreign tourists from Jan. to Jun. this year.
Figures from the Zambales Provincial Tourism Office (ZPTO) showed that in 2018 there was just a total of 151 accommodation establishments that were composed of beach resorts, inland accommodations, hotels, and lodges or inns.
Most of these were found in towns with active beach scenes: San Antonio, which had 31; Iba, 28; Candelaria, 16; Subic, 15; and San Narciso, 14.
In 2019, the total number increased to 231; then to 273 in 2020, and 317 in 2021, before further climbing to 340 as of August 2022.
Still, the beach communities currently have the biggest number of tourism accommodation establishments: San Antonio with 70; San Felipe, 49; Iba, 42; Botolan, 38; San Narciso, 28; Candelaria, 26; and Cabangan, 25.
ZPTO has estimated average daily expenditure by a tourist in Zambales at P2,500.
Mora said that with this, the 503,161 domestic arrivals and 17,130 foreign tourists recorded this year could have easily generated more than P1.3 billion in income for local tourism establishments and tourism-related businesses.
Mora said more local tourism offerings will be opened in Zambales soon with the provincial tourism product launch scheduled this month.
“We are putting out more products in response to Gov. Ebdane’s call to identify more local tourism products and services that can compete and provide fresh revenue stream to Zambales,” she said.