LA TRINIDAD, Benguet— This capital town of Benguet not only receives a spillover of the tourists who go to Baguio but also a visit here completes the experience of the visitors to the country’s summer capital, through its strawberry picking activity.
“We were told by many tourists who visited the swamp (strawberry farms) that their trip to Baguio will not be complete if they do not have a strawberry picking activity,” Mayor Romeo Salda told town hall employees during the flag-raising ceremony on Monday at the municipal grounds.
Salda’s statement came after lauding the policemen who continuously served and performed their duties during the holidays when roads leading to and from La Trinidad was chaotic due to the influx of tourists.
“We cannot send them away just because it was causing traffic in La Trinidad,” the mayor said.
La Trinidad is located less than six kilometers away from Baguio’s central business district.
Social media posts of residents during the holidays said it took some of them two hours or more before they can reach the town and their homes coming from Baguio City.
This was due to the thousands of tourists who went to La Trinidad to experience the strawberry picking activity at the farms at Kilometer 6. The visit is aside from seeing the “Colors of Stobosa” mural art at Kilometer 3.
Salda noted that the Department of Public Works and Highways put the number of vehicles that entered Baguio via Kennon Road at 60,000.
“If all those riding in the vehicles will want to have a strawberry picking activity, that is an additional 60,000 vehicles along the short stretch from Kilometer 3 to 6,” he said.
The local tourism office estimated that around 240,000 tourists visited the strawberry farms during the holidays in December.
“That is a conservative estimate and not a headcount because it was impossible to have everyone log [in] their names,” said Valred Olsim, municipal tourism officer in an interview on Monday.
The estimate was based on the parking fees received by the municipal government in an area of the strawberry farm multiplied by five people in each vehicle.
“That is conservative because there were several vans carrying more passengers that arrived not just cars,” Olsim said.
Olsim added that the strawberry picking activity has become a sought after agri-tourism attraction that only La Trinidad has.
The record shows that in the fourth quarter of 2019, La Trinidad received 322,000 tourists with 240,000 arriving during the December holidays, most of whom visit the strawberry farms.
La Trinidad has several tourist destinations, topping the list of arrivals is the strawberry farms with 282,200; Stobosa with 32,125; trading post with 6,350; Mt. Yangbew, 1,788; Benguet State University with 1,552; Mt. Costa, 520; Bahong/Alapang Rose Garden view deck with 440; Lily of the Valley organic agri-tourism garden, 422.
The third quarter record shows that there were visitors who also visited Mt. Kalugong 2,112; Bell Church 1,506; and Benguet Museum. 212.
The fourth quarter of tourist arrivals is estimated in 2018 at 185,419.
More than the fun, strawberry-related activities have led to several income-generating activities.
Olsim said there are more than 400 farmers who are growing strawberries and earn money directly from selling them or from providing strawberry picking activities.
There are also 150 families engaged in selling “pasalubong” (souvenir) items at the strawberry farms and about 100 who are engaged in the production of wine, jam, and other strawberry derivatives. Liza Agoot /PNA – NORTHBOUNDASIA.COM