LA TRINIDAD, the capital town of Benguet, is aiming to address underlying challenges for its tourism industry, with strawberry picking in the valley now part of every tourist's visit to the province.
Mayor Romeo Salda said tourism remains to be one of the top economic drivers in the town, providing income for most businessmen.
But parking facilities and additional road networks for tourist spots remain a challenge.
Salda said that at the strawberry farm alone, there is only one entrance and exit.
"In coordination with Benguet State University (BSU), we are waiting for their tourism plan in order to jive with the plan of the municipality," said Salda.
He said that in previous years, a letter was sent to the BSU, which owns hectares of land of strawberry farm. The BSU was asked to open one of its facilities to accommodate vehicles and tourists visiting the farm.
La Trinidad tourism statistics for same day tourists in 2019 recorded 322,417 tourists, with 282,200 visiting the strawberry farm, followed by the colorful houses at StoBoSa with 32,125, while 6,350 went to the vegetable trading post.
Other tourist spots in the valley are the BSU, Mt. Kalugong, Mt. Yangbew, Bell Church, Lily of the Valley and Mt. Costa.
Municipal Tourism Officer Valred Olsim said an increased number in tourist arrival was observed as compared to the one recorded in the fourth quarter in 2018 with 265,135.
The conservative estimate during the fourth quarter of 2019 was 322,000, but during the holidays alone in December, the number of visitors reached 240,000.
"Most tourists tour wouldn't be complete without visiting strawberry farm. We have observed the holidays with both lanes packed," Olsim said.
He said there are other strawberry fields in La Trinidad, but the strawberry farm in BSU has complete infrastructure, equipped with comfort rooms, parking areas, and pasalubong centers.
He said the local government has to invest in infrastructure.
"We have to accept the town did not have urban plan when it started, that is why it still hard to introduce structural development because of the existing structures," Olsim said.
To date, the Tourism Code of La Trinidad is being pushed to incorporate eco-tourism fees that will act as both regulatory and contribute in sustaining eco-tourism activities.