The comforting thought of reaching Manila from Baguio only in three hours is becoming a reality for travelers because the Tarlac-Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEX) is nearing its completion. It just opened its latest exit at Paniqui, Tarlac in December 2013. This opened the influx of a million tourists who came up to Baguio to experience the cold Christmas weather.
‘This was contributed in part by the TPLEX opening,” Baguio city mayor Mauricio Domogan said, about the increased number of tourists who came to Baguio during the Christmas break. According to the Department of Tourism (DOT) CAR regional director Pura Molintas, families and their friends wanted to experience the new TPLEX highway and their preference for cheaper land travel instead of air travel propelled the interest of most tourists to visit Baguio during the cold months. These tourists, she said stay in Baguio for an average of two nights. But she suggests the private sector must come up with interesting activities so that these tourists will linger in the city.
Currently, the DOT and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have a convergence project in the city to create walking tours in heritage sites and build biking lanes. The project is expected to be done by 2015.
With the rising numbers of tourists coming to Baguio, mayor Domogan said more hotels and condotels will be built in the city to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists coming to Baguio. According to the city tourism office, Baguio hotels have pegged an occupancy rate of 90 percent with the booming tourism allure of the city. This excludes however the occupancy rate of transient homes in the city. According to Goshen Land CEO Alexander Bangsoy, many budget tourists who come up to Baguio with their families prefer staying in transient homes because its cheaper. At North Cambridge, a masterplanned student condominium community of Goshen Land at Bakakeng barangay, budget tourists could already avail of their transient offerings. Budget tourists could also save more at North Cambridge because they could cook their own food inside the unit. Breakfast is also available upon request through Martha., the Goshen Land Property Management company.
Tourist influx in the city has benefited local businesses and entrepreneurs. “It’s an opportunity for them to increase their sales,” the mayor said. Fast moving products include vegetables, pasalubongs, strawberries, crafts and the iconic Baguio walis tambo. The rise in tourist arrivals specially during the Panagbenga festivities however has strained the city’s water supply. Baguio residents also complain that when these tourists leave the city, they also leave their mounds of garbage behind. Thus, the city council is studying a sales tax ordinance that will charge customers a two- percent sales tax. Collections from this tax will be programmed for garbage clean-up and management.
The completion of the TPLEX by 2015 will surely drive the city’s property values. But with the partial opening of the highway, Baguio real estate prices have already registered a spike which is expected to go up immediately next year.***Harriet Dale Sagorsor, JD