Frasco DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco (4th from left) together with Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong (3rd from left) during the groundbreaking rite for the ‘Tourist Rest Area’ to be built near the famous Lion’s Head along the Kennon Road.

1st tourist rest area in Luzon breaks ground

December 6, 2022 Cristina Lee-Pisco 392 views

‘Layover’ spot near Lion’s Head at Kennon Road

THE first-ever “Tourist Rest Area” (TRA) in Luzon broke ground on Monday, December 5, 2022, near the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road, a favorite layover spot of tourists going to Baguio City, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said yesterday.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco led the signing of the provisional Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) held at the Baguio Country Club, which formalizes the establishment of the TRA in the country’s “summer capital.”

The project is in partnership with the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and the Baguio City local government.

“Baguio is home to one of the most beautiful cultures that our country has; also, it has a very vibrant and dynamic local community that supports its own tourism initiatives. We’re very happy to help in their initiatives by adding a component to tourism that will make the travel experience of coming to Baguio even more convenient and stress-free because we’re providing the Tourist Rest Area to have clean and decent restrooms, a pasalubong center, and a tourist information center. We foresee that this can add further to the already very vibrant and dynamic tourism scene here in Baguio,” said Frasco.

She was joined by TIEZA Chief Operations Officer (COO) Mark Lapid, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, represented by city legal officer Richard Tayag, during the MOA signing. Baguio City Congressman Marquez Go was also represented by his wife, Soledad J. Go, at the event.

“We at the Department of Tourism recognize the value that Baguio City brings not only in terms of your physical destinations but, more importantly, the intangible cultural heritage that you have so very well preserved; hence, we are here to manifest our full support,” the Tourism chief added as she addressed the tourism stakeholders present at the event.

Under the agreement, the TRAs will be constructed by TIEZA, and upon completion, the Baguio local government unit (LGU) will then take charge of the operations and maintenance of the facility.

The DOT will also approve any of the LGU’s requests relating to the financial sustainability of the TRA, such as the opening of pasalubong centers and other tourism-related businesses within the TRA.

Visitor arrivals to Baguio City have resumed since the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, showing a consistently increasing trend.

The pandemic hampered Baguio’s usually vibrant tourism environment, with the “City of Pines” only recording over 267,000 visitors in 2021 and 268,000 in 2020, compared to over 1.5 million in 2019.

The first ten months of 2022 posted growing tourist traffic to the city, with more than 474,000 visitor arrivals recorded.

Last October, the DOT broke ground on TRAs in four locations in the Visayas and Mindanao islands.

Two TRAs were launched in the Visayas, while the other two were in Mindanao in Bukidnon and Samal Island in Davao. The Baguio TRA is the first ever in Luzon, with others scheduled to be put up soon in the provinces of Bohol, Ilocos Norte, and Palawan.

“This year, the intention is to give our tourists convenience as they go along their journey, understanding that the experience is not only at the destination itself but also the journey itself,” Frasco said.

“We’re maximizing domestic tourism as well by having close coordination [and] collaboration with our local government units such as Baguio City to ensure that we get Filipinos that are from the South and Central Philippines here to Baguio, and from here in Baguio at the North to Central Philippines and the South,” she added.

The TRAs is one of the landmark projects of Frasco in pursuit of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s vision to make traveling in the country more convenient for tourists and help provide a livelihood to local communities.