LAOAG CITY – As the province of Ilocos Norte gears up for the arrival of tourists, at least 70 students were hired as tourist aides under the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) to assist in ensuring the safety of tourists amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
"This program is jointly conducted by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Public Employment and Service Office (PESO), meant to generate local employment and give opportunities for students to earn while they learn,” Xavier Ruiz, operations officer of the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO), said in an interview Thursday.
For this batch, the students will provide additional assistance to local government units as the province's tourism industry kicks into full gear.
Previously, the INTO has been hiring hundreds of tourist aides including senior citizens and out-of-school youth but has been reduced to only 70 this year due to the pandemic.
Prior to deployment, each of them has to undergo an orientation seminar to promote the Ilocanos brand of hospitality, as well as to ensure minimum health and safety protocols are observed. Part of the orientation is to train them on how to properly interact with tourists and help make their stay in the province memorable and worthwhile.
Ilocos Norte is the first province in the country to be awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels Stamp for its adoption of globally recognized health and safety protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTTC Safe Travels Stamp is the world's first safety and hygiene earmark given to tourism institutions and industries that assist travelers in recognizing governments and businesses that implement global health standardized guidelines.
"Ilocos Norte is one of the first destinations in the Philippines to reopen for tourism. The province was also part of the pioneer Ridge and Reef Tourism Corridor among Region I provinces and Baguio City. They have recognized the presence of safety nets for stakeholders in the industry, specifically the establishment of a tourists' triage, the regular conduct of hotel inspections, and our pioneering effort to prioritize tourism workers in our vaccine rollout,” said Ruiz citing most tourism workers in the province are now fully vaccinated.