Tourism is one of HK’s sources of revenue. The man made and natural attractions, ease of getting around, duty free shopping and relatively peaceful environment attracted 26.9 million tourists in 2009. A well planned transportation system and related infrastructure provides utmost convenience to visitors. As I write this, I reflect on my visit and do this purposely to inspire and encourage all stakeholders to take a second look at our tourism potentials. If we take HK as a point of comparison, we may not have that much funds to provide for infrastructure support, but we can take off from the things that we already have. At times, things that we often take for granted are potential tourist draws. With a limited budget, we still can do a lot if we want to draw visitors in. With the influx of visitors, the economy improves. So how does a community draw visitors in? I give my humble suggestions. Let me use Bontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province as a basis for this illustration. First, Bontoc, a growing community does not have street names to speak off. A first time visitor would rely on street names to follow directions. Aside from street names, streets should contain signs providing directions to public toilets, public transport, the hospital, gas station, hotels and the nearest attractions. I was able to do a quick tour of the HK Zoological and Botanical Garden by following direction signs on the streets. Also, HK’s street signs include guides on what bus number to take based on their destination.
If I were a first time visitor in Bontoc and would like to visit Maligcong Rice Terraces, I would have to ask the man on the street for directions or rely on the Lonely Planet Book. Putting street signs would not cost a fortune. Second, let us look at the past. A community’s colorful past could be an attraction in itself. Are there structures like government buildings, homes, churches, schools that existed starting in a bygone era? Saint Vincent’s Elementary School, All Saint’s Mission Elementary School and Bontoc Central School were all established in the early1900s. Simply putting a marker that describes the history of these institutions would be of interest to the first time visitor. The Sta. Rita Church has a marker with the late Fr. Sepulchre’s bust describing the role of the latter in the building of the church. To enhance the attraction, the institutions mentioned might want to include a mini museum displaying memorabilia. Could there be houses in the area that have distinct/unique architecture of a particular period? The owners could get visitors to pay a visit (with a fee) if they have a unique story about the former residents of the place or other related stories.
Third, let us look at possible attractions that a community could have. HK’s Botanical Garden has a mini green house displaying all the unique flora of the city. We can also have this. The community might have a more varied number of plants native to the place. I was amused that the pitcher plant, which also grows in our mountains was displayed for exhibit in HK’s Botanical Garden. True enough the fact that it was labeled “Carnivorous Plant” describing that the pitcher plant traps insects- gathers much interest from a visitor. This is a simple illustration that what might be ordinary to the locals could be something unique and new to others. Don’t you know that some city bred kids do not have an idea of how a strawberry plant looks like? They think strawberries grow on trees. (To be continued next issue).