By Leonardo V. Micua
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, March 15 (PNA) -- The province of Pangasinan is now the number one tourist destination in Region 1 based on a survey conducted recently by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
The survey showed the province under the leadership of Gov. Amado T. Espino Jr. posted a record 41.47 percent tourist arrivals as compared to Ilocos Norte, the former top grosser in tourism in the region, with 35.64 percent.
Two years ago, Pangasinan was the tail-ender among four Ilocos provinces in the number of tourist arrivals, according to the DOT.
Gov. Espino said he is pushing hard to promote tourism in Pangasinan as part of the overall development plan of his administration.
Cited as the main reason for the improved tourism program in Pangasinan was the grand transformation of the capitol building, from an old rickety one built in the early 1900, to become one of the best capitols in the entire country today.
The capitol is now a premier tourist come-on of the province, serving as the official house of all elected provincial officials.
In the early part of his administration, Governor Espino vowed to make the capitol the centerpiece of tourism in Pangasinan.
Also undertaken, aside from the refurbishing of the capitol building, was the repair of the adjacent Kalantiao, Malong and Finance buildings and its component areas such as the Veterans Park and Lingayen beach front.
The provincial government-owned Capitol Resort Hotel has also been refurbished to serve as a venue for the various functions of the provincial government and the public.
To boost tourism, the provincial government bought six eco-tourism buses that could bring tourists to any point in Pangasinan after they had visited the capitol.
Espino said the provincial government's Tour Assistance Program provided tour and escorting services produced seven DOT-certified/accredited tour guides through a first-ever Tour Guiding Seminar.
Aside from these, the province has also 18 active tour guides who are all employees of the provincial government.
About 7,000 visitors and more than 16,000 others, mainly students from private, public, state colleges and universities, have already availed of the tour guiding services from the capitol to the different towns of the province.
Another historic undertaking of the provincial government was the launching and provision of six shuttle buses that ferry employees to and from their point of destination for free.
These buses are also utilized by all provincial employees in their study tours and in the conduct of their “Employees Tour and Team Building ” program.
The Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center was also rehabilitated to enable it to continuously host regional, national and international sporting events.
At the same time, Gov. Espino announced that the province has some 300 hectares of foreshore land in the northwestern part of Lingayen that is set to be converted into a sprawling eco-tourist zone. (PNA)