CLARK FREEPORT – Various tourism groups in Pampanga, despite the pandemic, have not stopped trying to bring back tourism in the province – and bring it back bigger and better.
Gilda Padua of the Alliance of Travel and Tour Agencies of Pampanga (ATTAP), representing the group’s president, Pamela Guzman, told mediamen during Pampanga Press Club’s News@Hues monthly forum at the Park Inn by Radisson Clark that the Department of Tourism commissioned the group in 2020 to create a medical, dental and wellness tourism package.
Padua said the project is in partnership with The Medical City Clark, Angeles University Foundational Medical Center and the Chua Eye institute, among others.
“We’ve noticed that people from the north are still going to Manila for treatments like, for example, hip replacement. What they don’t realize is that they can do it inside Clark,” Padua said.
She also said that Central Luzon is being poised in the market as an aviation destination, as there are several aviation schools in Clark and Subic, which the ATTAP has already visited in line with the project. This, she said, is under “education tourism” which the group also created.
Padua also mentioned local government unit initiatives with ATTAP, which include networking with tourism stakeholders and officers of Pampanga. They are also working on the “Pampanga Culinary Experience” where they will be partnering with Chef Vince Garcia. The program is still being developed, Padua said.
Meanwhile, Mitch Otsuru-Park from the Hotels and Restaurants Association in Pampanga (HARP) also recalled how they were hit hard by the pandemic.
Coming up with ways to revive the tourism industry became a challenge for them too, according to Otsuru-Park.
“We came up with the ‘Lumibut Dumurut’ series, where we conducted tourism inside Clark in partnership with the Clark Development Corporation,” she said.
The second leg of the tour brought participants outside of Clark, including Magalang town, Mabalacat City and the bamboo hub in Lubao, according to Otsuru-Park.
For the third leg, they explored Porac town and its various tourist spots, including the so-called Avatar Gorge which the town is now developing, the HARP representative said.
Another group working to revive tourism in Pampanga is the Greater Clark Visitors Bureau (GCVB), which is an association of tourism destinations in the greater Clark area.
Krizia Chu-Tranquilino of GCVB said a lot of businesses were severely hit, with tourist attractions closed for months.
“We managed to keep it together and encourage everybody as they are going through the same thing,” Tranquilino said.
She enumerated their members in Angeles City, which she described as “the food capital of the food capital”.
First in her list is the city’s Heritage Area, including the newly renovated Museo ning Angeles; the Aqua Planet which recently re-opened to welcome foreign and local tourists alike; the Anak Bale Balayan headed by Peter de Vera, where tourists are given a taste of how talented kids from Angeles City are; the Clark Museum which is a go-to place to experience Clark “as it was before.”
Another attraction in Angeles City is the Deca Wake Park, where wakeboarding is the name of the game; the Dinosaur Island inside Clark, a park where animatronic dinosaurs abound. The open grounds also attract families to frequent the park, Tranquilino said.
There is also El Kabayo inside Clark, where wide open spaces invite, kids and adults alike to get in touch with nature and the horses; the Mountain Clark Firing Range where licensed instructors can help tourists experience safe shooting using licensed firearms which are for rent.
“Of course, there is Puning Hot Springs which have unique offerings like being buried in sand, and the off-road course using 4-wheel drive vehicles,” Tranquilino said.
The Sandbox, which was closed for the whole of the pandemic, has also reopened and is perfect for teens, and those looking for adventure. The Zoocobia Zoo can also be found in Clark, where tourists can feed and interact with animals.
In the City of San Fernando can be found the Capital Town, Tranquilino said, which plans to build four museums to preserve the Pasudeco chimneys. It will also have a central business district, condos, and shophouse districts.