MY FRIENDS were sharing our observations last night that the number of tourists this year was lesser than the previous years. I read posts by some FB friends also sharing this observation. These observations were based on three aspects.
First, traffic was not as heavy as expected. It was only during the parades that very heavy traffic was experienced because many roads were closed. When these roads were opened again, there was normal traffic. My conversations with taxi drivers and some friends further confirmed my observations.
Secondly, it was relatively easier to hail taxi cabs., except along Session Road (last night) and during the evening rush. My waiting times for taxi cabs over the weekend were below my average waiting time, so it is relatively easier to get a cab ride without using Grab.
Thirdly, there were lesser number of vehicles plying the TPLEX, MacArthur Highway and Kennon Road last Friday when I was travelling back from Urdaneta. I expected that my travel would be challenging as I travelled at the supposed time for the ingress of tourists.
Roaming around the CBD during the weekend proved that there was a thinner volume of tourists walking and driving around the city. How do we know they are tourists? They cross in non-designated pedestrian lanes. They don’t believe in the No U-Turn sign. They dispose of their garbage by leaving them on the sidewalk where their van was parked.
During the Grand Street Dancing and Grand Float Parade, many residents, who did not go out-of-town to flee the i, just chose to stay home. I watched the float parade on TV, and it was nice that the hashtag, “team bahay” was coined. It was the residents’ way to lightly take the problem, and address it by just staying home and not contribute to further congestion.
By now, after holding this festival for more than 2 decades, the residents have their own horror story related to Panagbenga, like walking for kilometers just to hail a ride and reach home or losing a valuable snatched from your pocket while watching the parade or walking around during Session Road in Bloom or in the Market Encounter.
I do not have concrete figures to prove whether there was really a drop in the volume of tourists who came for the festival. I honestly cannot, for the life of me, attribute this “better” condition to new, innovative and groundbreaking strategies and policies conceptualized and implemented by city officials, the festival committee and other authorities this year. So, what could be the likely reasons for this decline?
Here are my assumptions on the likely reasons for the decline of tourists attending the festival.
First, the tourists who came for the festival this year may be Panagbenga virgins, meaning it’s their first time to attend and experience the festival. There may be very few repeat attendees or returning tourists, aside from those who are accompanying the virgins. I came up with this hypothesis by making mental comparisons of the activities done during the festival.
To be brutally frank, the activities did not significantly evolve since the festival started 23 years ago. There were no new innovations that I could honestly say that made one year particularly remarkable or memorable, except for making the festival theme more contemporary several years back.
Second, since the TPLEX existed and travel was made much easier (I call it the TPLEX tragedy), Baguio became the virtually the place to go for those tourists who have limited time, limited resources and limited IQ and EQ, because you know, it’s so cheap to go to Baguio and so near. The tourist lean season for Baguio is already gone. Tourists come to Baguio all year round.
So, I believe that tourists chose not to come to Baguio for the festival anymore. Since they can come anytime, when say maybe, there are lesser number of tourists. They didn’t want to join the millions (hyperbole) who joined the flower festival.
I do not have any reference nor data to back up these claims. I just used my special powers and I came up with these assumptions. They make sense, don’t they? If they do, then you are true, blue Baguio Uncle and Auntie. If you don’t, then my special powers don’t work on you.
ERRATUM: Last week, I was pertaining to another friend, who works in the Municipio, but not specifically in the Tourism Office as my new, would-be best friend and also SunStar columnist, Valdred Olsim clarified. My sincerest apologies to Valdred for that mishap. I also apologize to that friend I was pertaining to in that edition. I know you don’t want your name to be mentioned. Mayat tupay!