DURING the 14th Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines and Department of Tourism (ATOP-DOT) Pearl Awards which was held at Laoag City last October 5, 2019, the Municipality of La Trinidad became only one of the few Local Government Units (LGUs) who reaped multiple awards as recognition to tourism best practices/programs, projects, and activities (PPAs). Among more than a hundred participating LGUs, La Trinidad became the Grand winner for the Best Tourism Week/Month celebration in the country, while its Strawberry Festival placed second in the Best Tourism Event (Festival – Productivity/Trade) category. The Benguet Association of Tourism Officers, led by La Trinidad also won the 3rd place for the Best Tourism Officers Club/Organization in the nation. The set of awards is historically the most tourism-related awards received by representatives of the Cordillera Administrative Region in the nationwide event that has been dominated by the Visayas regions.
The awards were officially received by Mayor Romeo Salda, Coun. Francis Lee, Coun. John Botiwey, and the La Trinidad Tourism staff. The national awarding ceremony/search is a culmination of a three-day annual tourism convention which is attended by LGU officials, Tourism Officers, and Tourism partners/stakeholders. For LGUs, the said most coveted awards offer two major purposes: First, it is an assessment tool to review and improve government service performances which should exemplify a tourism-oriented local governance, and second, it adds to the “pride of place”/ bragging rights among participating towns (as it reflects competitiveness). The awards and titles also boosts tourism promotions that will draw and foster the economic benefits brought by trade, travel and tourism.
During the final defense and interview prior to the awards night for the best tourism event (festival – productivity/trade) category where La Trinidad placed second, the esteemed panelist suggested that La Trinidad should aggressively promote the La Trinidad, Benguet brand in its strawberry jams, strawberry wines, and other strawberry-related products, so that it can depart from the strong and stable “Baguio City” brand. Obviously, aside from the aesthetic comments directed to the Strawberry Farms (owned and operated by Benguet State University), the weak branding and labeling of the Strawberry Products is what ultimately cost us the top prize. Admittedly, most Benguet towns lack tourism infrastructure investments, although this must be because the tourism industry takes the backseat in our place unlike in other places which heavily focuses on tourism.
For the best tourism week/month celebration. La Trinidad surprisingly won the grand championship perhaps, because of the following points: 1.) Policy-based implementation of activities (institutionalized by Ordinance), 2.) The La Trinidad Tourism Week is a pioneer to the region 3.) The celebration dwells on the perspective of digital transformation in line with the international tourism celebration theme. 4.) Creativity and resourcefulness in event execution.
Aside from serving as preparation for the ultimate Seal of Good Local Governance Awards which highlights “Tourism, Culture, and Arts” as one of the core area for assessment, the said activity serves as a showcase and a learning avenue for the best of the best tourism practices in the country. The said laurels are shared to all the tourism stakeholders and supporters, and also the La Trinidad and Benguet community as a whole. Iyaman sod emin jen suporta jo! Salamat en dakayo am-in!