BAGUIO’s TOURISM CARRYING CAPACITY STILL MANAGEABLE – WWRRDEC

12 August 2022 – The Summer Capital’s tourism carrying capacity threshold has not yet been exceeded based on a recent study conducted by the Watershed and Water Resources Research Development Extension Center (WWRRDEC) under the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The city’s tourism carrying capacity is part of the study on the environmental carrying capacity undertaken by the WWRRDEC that focused on population carrying capacity, road carrying capacity, and physical carrying capacity, especially in the number of residential houses, business establishments and tourism facilities.

WWRRDEC head Helen Maddumba said that tourism carrying capacity refers to the maximum number of individuals that can be accommodated in a certain area without adversely affecting the biological and physical condition of the environment and the level of the destruction of the visitor and the socio-cultural norms of the local community.

The study on the city’s tourism carrying capacity was undertaken in 11 most frequented tourist sites in the city that include Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, Mines View Park, Mansion House and Wright Park, Botanical Garden, Dominican Hill, Lion’s Head, Tam-awan Village the Baguio night market area, Baguio Cathedral and Bell church.

Based on the highlights of the study, Maddumba disclosed that the top 5 tourist destinations in the city are Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, Baguio Botanical Garden, the Manion House and Wright Park, and Mines View Park.

Further, she added that the most popular activities done by the tourists in the said destinations are sightseeing, strolling, relaxing, communing with nature and taking pictures where the level of enjoyment of visitors is high.

The study showed that the space standard of tourists varies according to places and the activities undertaken. Sightseeing, boating, picnicking, horseback riding, shopping, art viewing and praying require only 10 to 50 square meters. Adventure activities and other exploration activities require wider space from 50 to 100 meters.

However, she pointed out that there are also limiting factors in the tourist sites such as too crowded areas, limited parking, heavy traffic, restrictive rules among others.

The study revealed that the real tourism carrying capacity of the city is around 3,076,585 but if the 72 percent management capability will be factored in, the computed effective carrying capacity is 2,215,141.

According to her, comparing the data to the tourist arrivals in 2019 which was 1,535,458, the city can still accommodate around 679,683 tourists.

The WWRRDEC clarified that while it is true that the city’s tourism carrying capacity has not yet been exceeded, there is a need to consider other factors such as population where the city already exceeded its population carrying capacity by more than 145,000 inhabitants based on 2020 data, the physical carrying capacity where the city already exceeded the allowable structures by more than 33,000 and the road carrying capacity where the city also exceeded the same and needs around more than 325 kilometers of road to cater to the current situation.

For flora assessment, Maddumba stipulated that Baguio has more than 500,000 Benguet pine. In the tourist sites, 83 different species of 18 genera belonging to 13 families are recorded and the same is dominated by Benguet pine. The 5 dominant species are Benguet pine, agoho, African tulip, alnus and red bottle brush.

The WWRRDEC recommended to the local government to strictly observe and apply the results of the several carrying capacity analysis, to aid the design and implementation of sustainable tourism programs for  the city, apply stricter visitor management scheme, activity restrictions, make entry to the city more expensive, require the pre-registration and to allow the free entry of anybody, set a limit to the number of tourists that may be allowed entry to the city, among others. - Dexter A. See