LEGAZPI CITY—Camarines Norte, Bicol’s northernmost province famous for the 17-island Calaguas group, showed the most impressive growth rate in terms of the increased number of tourists drawn to the province in the past two years compared to the five other provinces in the region, according to latest data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol.
DOT-Bicol Director Maria O. Ravanilla, in an interview, said a comparison of the combined domestic and foreign tourists, who visited the province during the first six months of 2015 and 2016, showed Camarines Norte had the highest growth rate of 63.4 percent among the six Bicol provinces.
She cited that from 152,957 tourists from January to June 2015, the number had jumped to 249,988 visitors to the province during the same months in 2016.
Albay province was second with a growth rate of 57.4 percent while third was Camarines Sur with a growth rate of 32.2 percent. The bottom three were Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.
In Camarines Norte, tourists find the mile-long powdery sand and emerald waters of “Mahabang Buhangin,” which is part of the Calaguas Group of Islands, as reminiscent of Boracay some 30 years ago.
Located in Vinzons town, the Calaguas group is the number one beach destination in the province while Bagasbas Beach in the capital town of Daet is the country’s finest surfing spot and a playground for kiteboarding.
Ravanilla cited the formation of Task Force Calaguas, that consist of different government agencies, among them the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the local government unit, who have been working with DOT-Bicol in protecting and safeguarding the well-being of the island.
She said the task force has established a code of conduct so everyone in the community could be held responsible in taking care of Calaguas amid the influx of travelers to its shores.
“We do not want it (Calaguas) to go the way of Caramoan (in Camarines Sur)” where the influx of foreign visitors prefaced the formation of Task Force Caramoan, said Ravanilla.
She added that in recent years there has also been “easy access” to Camarines Norte that contributed to the drove of tourists to the province.
In 2015, the Department of Public Works and Highways developed what it called the Cory Aquino Boulevard, (named after the former Philippine President), that would serve as an access road to the various tourist destinations in the province.
At approximately 8.7 kilometers, the boulevard stretches from the towns of Daet, Mercedes to Talisay in Camarines Norte.