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DOT eyes Central Luzon as compelling, distinctive tourism destination

It's worth visiting Central Luzon.

From world class surfing sites in Aurora to majestic views of landscape and beaches in Bataan, historical places in Bulacan, stunning mountains of Nueva Ecija, gastronomic quests in Pampanga, outdoor adventures that abound Tarlac, and the island coves of Zambales, visiting Central Luzon can be a complete tourism experience.

The region’s tourism sector for 2023 turned out to be vibrant. It has delivered promising results in terms of its domestic performance and foreign arrivals brought by its improved gateway access, whether land routes or air flights.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Richard Daenos disclosed that Central Luzon recorded a total of 2.8 million tourist arrivals, as of the third quarter of 2023.

This comprises about 2.6 million domestic arrivals and 197,837 foreign arrivals which showcase the region as a premier destination for both local and international tourists.

“In tandem with participation in international business missions, travel fairs and expos, the region’s accessibility has increased, with the rising domestic and international flights at the Clark International Airport (CRK),” he said.

In terms of maritime tourism, there is an increase in the arrival of cruise tourists at Subic Bay Freeport Zone, marking a revival and diversification in tourism offerings. 

In addition, Daenos underscored that DOT has successfully accredited 1,204 tourism-related enterprises, surpassing the five percent targeted increase, and achieving a commendable 9.28 percent rise. 

“These underscore the commitment to enhancing the quality of tourism services in the region,” he explained.

In terms of capacity-building, the agency has trained approximately 10,000 stakeholders under the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE) program, emphasizing the commitment to enhancing the skills and competencies of tourism industry players. 

Department of Tourism Regional Director Richard Daenos (left) leads the initial launch of the region's newest tourism brand bannering its official slogan, "Where Endless Stories Begin" at SM City Clark in December 2023. (DOT Region 3)

Central Luzon, Where Endless Stories Begin

Another significant stride of DOT was the initial launch of its regional tourism brand.

Daenos highlighted that this strategic branding effort aims to position Central Luzon as a compelling and distinctive tourism destination.

“Our regional tourism brand, encapsulated in the compelling frames, ‘Central Luzon, Where Endless Stories Begin’, goes beyond a mere slogan. It is an invitation to explore, discover, and become an integral part of the myriad stories that this remarkable region has to offer,” he stated.

Central Luzon’s tourism sector is not just about places but also of experiences, moments, and the unique tales that unfold every interaction. It invites visitors, and locals alike to be storytellers and protagonists in the narrative of the region’s cultural richness, natural wonders, and dynamic communities.

Daenos further explained that the new branding promotes Central Luzon beyond being a destination, but a vibrant canvas where countless stories come to life. 

“Within the rich and diverse landscape of the region, every experience becomes a stroke in a masterpiece, contributing to the vibrant narrative that defines the region... Join us in creating, sharing, and becoming part of the limitless stories that make our region extraordinary. Central Luzon, where Endless Stories Begin,” he pressed.

Department of Tourism Regional Director Richard Daenos explains that Tourism Recognition for Enterprises and Stakeholders (TRES) Awards 2023 aims to spotlight those who have gone above and beyond in shaping the tourism landscape and making it a truly memorable experience for all. (Jag Lyra D. Costamero/PIA 3)

DOT TRES Awards 2023 

The noteworthy treads in Central Luzon’s tourism sector are also due to the efforts of various individuals and stakeholders which helped DOT in its achievements.

To recognize their efforts, the agency staged the Tourism Recognition for Enterprises and Stakeholders (TRES) Awards 2023 at Clark Freeport Zone.

Daenos explained that the awards night aims to spotlight those who have gone above and beyond in shaping the tourism landscape and making it a truly memorable experience for all.

“We embark on a new journey to acknowledge the dedication and innovation that defined the essence of our region. As we stand on the face of the future, let us joyfully embrace the unfolding era, together,” he added.

The awards also aim to inspire and challenge its stakeholders to remain committed, driven, and empowered to enhance and elevate the overall tourism experience in the region through their significant contributions.

City of San Fernando Mayor Vilma Caluag (middle) and City Tourism Officer Maria Lourdes Carmella Jade Pangilinan (right) receive the Most Outstanding Community-Based Tourism Program Award during the Tourism Recognition for Enterprises and Stakeholders (TRES) Awards 2023 held at Clark Freeport Zone. The city government took home a total of eight awards.(Jag Lyra D. Costamero/PIA 3)

CSFP wins big in DOT TRES Awards 2023 

Gigantic lanterns about 20-feet in height, palatable dishes showcasing authentic Kapampangan cuisine, colorful calesa, heritage houses, and longest mall in the Philippines – nothing beats Pampanga’s capital city, the City of San Fernando, when it comes to unique tourism stops.

Its various efforts in the promotion and preservation of its tourism sector became all worth it after it took home eight awards during the TRES Awards 2023.

Pampanga’s capital city was given the Kaagapay Award, the highest accolade given.

Its tourism officer, Maria Lourdes Carmella Jade Pangilinan was also recognized as the region’s grand winner for the Most Outstanding Tourism Officer award.

“I am very happy with the recognition that we received as these are proof of the hard work that we did for our city and for all Kapampangan. These will serve as inspiration for us to work harder, strive more in order to promote tourism development not only in the City of San Fernando, but also in the whole Central Luzon,” she said.

Pangilinan is one of the longest-serving tourism officers in the region for 17 years.

Apart from these, City of San Fernando’s Preserving Heritage for Progress program which covers research, planning, and implementation of projects and activities that preserve its heritage was placed as the grand winner under the Most Outstanding Cultural Tourism Program.

Its month-long tourism month celebration involving the Tourism Star Awards, trade fairs, cooking and art making contests, and calesa rides was also awarded as the grand winner under the Most Outstanding Tourism Month Celebration.

The city also emerged as the grand winner under the Top Tourist Destination – City Level for recording thousands of visitors.

Its Giant Lantern Festival (GLF), a 115-year-old festival showcasing the expertise and craftsmanship of Fernandinos in making 20-feet tall lanterns, was recognized as the grand winner under the Most Outstanding Festival.

Pangilinan expressed her happiness for the recognition of the GLF as it is one of the longest festivals in the country.

“I think what’s beautiful about it is that a traditional festival like it is still relevant at this time, and we’re able to live with the times and face the new challenges that the festival has faced through the years. That’s a hallmark of sustainability,” she said.

Pangilinan pledged that the city tourism office will continue to push forward for the improvement of the tourism sector, with sustainable tourism development at its heart.

“We will see that it is not only for profit, but also for people and the planet. This means, there are economic benefits but at the same time, we have to maintain the environmental and socio-cultural development of our place,” she explained.

Other accolades received by the city is the first runner-up award under the Most Outstanding Community-Based Tourism Project for its Calesa Preservation program which aims to preserve and promote calesa as heritage symbols and means of public transportation. 

It also bagged the second runner-up award for Most Visited Tourist Destination based on same-day visits.

Pangilinan stated that they will begin 2024 by continuously promoting sustainable development at the community level. “We will continue lifting the life of the people in our communities through tourism development,” she added.

Quest Plus Conference Center – Clark bags a number of recognitions during the TRES Awards 2023 including the Green Champion Award. (DOT Region 3)

Other winners in TRES Awards 2023

Quest Plus Conference Center – Clark also bagged a number of recognitions during the TRES Awards 2023. It received the Green Champion Award, Most Gender Sensitive Workplace for Employees, and Mabuhay Award (Restaurant) for Mequeni Live. Two of its employees likewise got the Mabuhay Award namely Katrina Quiambao Dizon (Front Office) and Ricardo Nogoy Jr. (Housekeeping).

The company also finished 1st runner-up for Most Gender Sensitive Accommodation Facility; 1st runner-up for MICE Meeting Room Category and 2nd runner-up for Hotel, Resort, Apartment Hotel category under Tourism Quality Award.

Lake Farm Dela Marre, on the other hand, dominated the Gender and Development Category with recognitions for Gender-Sensitive Promotional Materials, Gender-Sensitive Tourist Attraction, and First Place-Most Gender-Sensitive Accommodation Facility.

Meanwhile, other winners under the Mabuhay Category include Purovel Spa & Sport of Swissotel Clark (Spa), Alexis John Aquino of Swissotel Clark (Supervisor), and Erwin Valenzuela (Tour Guide).

Other winners under the Tourism Quality Category were SMX Convention Center Clark (MICE Exhibition Venue and MICE Event Venue), BB Casa Laguerta (Mabuhay Accommodation), and Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort (MICE Meeting Room and Hotel, Resort, and Apartment Hotel).

Under the Tourism Development Category, the Most Creative Tourism Marketing Collateral for Social Media was given to Clark Development Corporation’s “Experience Exciting Clark”; while the Most Creative Tourism Marketing Collateral for Print Materials was awarded to the province of Bataan’s “Pamana Journal.”

The province of Nueva Ecija was likewise named as Tourism Statistics Champion while the province of Zambales topped the FBSE Advocate.

DOT also conferred the Most Outstanding Festival (Province) to Singkaban Festival of Bulacan; Most Outstanding Festival (Municipality) to Kamaru Festival of Magalang, Pampanga; and Most Outstanding Community-Based Tourism Program to Yapak Tour Guides and the Sustainable Legacy of the City of San Jose del Monte Dumagat Trail of the City of San of Jose del Monte in Bulacan. These were given under the Outstanding Tourism Program Category. 

Other recipients of the Kaagapay Award include Zambales (Province and Freeports) and Porac, Pampanga (Municipality).

And lastly, other winners under Top Tourist Destination Category include Subic Bay Freeport Zone (Most Visited Tourism Destination based on same-day visits); Dipaculao, Aurora (Municipality); and Clark Freeport Zone (Province and Freeports).

Special Recognitions were likewise given to Luzon International Premiere Airport Development Corporation (Special Recognition Award) and former DOT Regional Director Ronaldo Tiotuico (DOT Central Luzon Haligi Award).

Indeed, Central Luzon is more than just a rich tapestry of culture and traditions. It is also a home of individuals, organizations, and stakeholders working together as the heart and soul of the region, making Central Luzon as the beginning of endless stories. (CLJD/JLDC-PIA 3)

About the Author

Jag Lyra Costamero

Information Officer I

Region 3

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