The Royal Treatment at Puerto Princesa
With strict safety standards in place, Puerto Princesa is ready to welcome visitors once more. The Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed the highly urbanized city and tourist haven in recent years, followed by Typhoon Odette. However, it is on the mend—-as gloriously as its beautiful, romantic, and gastronomic attractions.
“The tourism industry is the lifeblood of Puerto Princesa, along with agriculture. Almost 15,000 people directly or indirectly benefit from tourism. In varying degrees, most of the recent construction and development projects are related to tourism: hotel-building, parks, cruise-ship ports, street lights, roads and many more. Unfortunately, some of these have been on hold since the onset of the pandemic,” discloses Demetrio “Toto” Alvior Jr., the city tourism officer.
The Royal Connection
Puerto Princesa, the capital of picture-perfect Palawan, stretches for 106 kilometers along 253,982 hectares of stunning coasts. Because of its strategic geographic location, it has enough depth to accommodate ships of all sizes, earning it the title of “Princess of Ports,” or “Puerto Princesa” in Spanish.
Puerto Princesa is without a doubt one of the country’s most enjoyable destinations. A popular vacation spot for tourists, beachgoers, and hikers; a thriving business center with a rural allure; a provincial ambiance with modern conveniences; and a clean and green city known for its beautiful forests, pure air, and frontier character.
Rising Above Covid-19
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, the city of Puerto Princesa has been fighting to get back on its feet. Hundreds of tourism-related firms have closed due to a shortage of tourists, leaving thousands of people unemployed.
“The public-health crisis forced them to find alternative sources of income, which was made more difficult because of the restrictions of movement due to several lockdowns,” Mr. Alvior reveals. “One factor of low tourist arrivals is the fluctuating number of Covid cases, which in turn affects the determination of quarantine requirements and national government intervention policies.”
Today, Puerto Princesa is experiencing record lows in terms of economic losses, losing around P5 billion a year for the past two years from potential tourist receipts.
“The City Tourism Department has been strengthening its social media campaigns to encourage local tourists to visit local attractions, in a bid to boost much-needed revenues to the ailing tourism sector,” a cautiously optimistic Mr. Alvior says. “We have one important wish in the City Tourism Department, and that is to prioritize the aids for the Typhoon Odette-affected tourism industry here.”
The goal is to regain the city’s glory as an eco-tourism capital. “Our 2022 goals are full restoration of all the tourist attractions affected by Typhoon Odette such as the completion of the construction of the cruise-ship port and other man-made tourist attractions. There will be wide, extensive and aggressive promotions of Puerto Princesa to the local and international market.”
The Last Frontier
There are numerous tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa. However, many visitors to the city prioritize the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, one of the New7Wonders of Nature. The city attracts a considerable number of travelers as the starting point for visiting the world-famous Tubbataha Reef.
“Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have never ceased to hope that the future will be better. This year 2022 is no different. And while what we want is a full recovery, we cannot afford to be careless when taking big steps. As we begin to truly understand the gravity of the situation, we also come to realize that our moves must be consistent with the bigger picture such as the national situation,” Mr. Alvior says.
Since February 10, the city has been happily welcoming more visitors once again, hoping that the arrival numbers will soon be back to pre-pandemic levels. In this initiative, the tourism department shares the privilege on with the private sector.
“While the government is the administrator of the State, the private sector is the bloodline. The government and the private sector are two inseparable factors for Puerto Princesa to prosper, and more importantly, to recover,” Mr. Alvior says. “The key to recovery is to enable and support the private sector to keep or resume their business operations. When it comes to the city’s biggest partners, apart from government agencies, it is the collective impact of small-business operations.”
Although Puerto Princesa is known as “The Last Frontier,” the city’s tourism department is certain that it will always be a top destination for visitors.