The easing of travel restrictions is one of the most encouraging developments that could help revive the tourism sector, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.
Tourism stakeholders were the most impacted sector amid the pandemic. Total losses in the sector reportedly exceeded P200 billion, including revenue losses of airlines and hotels.
Puyat said that under alert level 3, eligible individuals can now travel more easily to local destinations that have reopened.
“We welcome the opportunities that this new scheme allows for tourism, especially on traveling to areas with ample outdoor space, fresh air and minimal crowds. Specifically, the IATF has decided to permit interzonal leisure travel for children and fully-vaccinated seniors following a proposal from the Department of Tourism that those who are below 18 years old, as well as those above 65 years of age may now take trips on a point-to-point basis to GCQ or MGCQ areas as long as they are fully vaccinated, subject to the guidelines of the DOT and the regulations of the concerned LGUs,” she said.
Puyat said the DOT ramped up efforts to vaccinate A1 and A4 tourism workers, particularly in major tourism destinations, both as a preventive measure and as a way to boost travelers’ confidence.
In the NCR, 99 percent of the tourism workers employed in hotels across Metro Manila, were already fully vaccinated.
Nationwide, vaccination rate in the tourism sector reached 65.53 percent. This represented about 276,262 fully-vaccinated tourism workers as of Oct. 15.
Vaccination in key destinations is also picking up. Vaccination rate among tourism workers in Coron, reached 91.22 percent; followed by Boracay, with 90.62 percent; and Bohol, 76.73 percent. Other destinations like San Vicente, Palawan and Baguio City reported vaccination rate of 100 percent among target tourism workers.
“We have also put attention to building other domestic tourism initiatives that would hasten the recovery of the industry. Among the key undertakings by our regional offices are the recalibration of our current offerings and the creation of new products and tourism circuits,” said Puyat.
Beginning 2020, the DOT identified 44 tourism circuits around the country, including cross and bike trails, heritage tours and historical caravans. About 71 more circuits are in the pipeline for development. These are awhat the travelers want during the new normal, Puyat said.
On the promotion of safe tourism, the DOT issued guidelines on the operation of tourism enterprises. The agency noted a rise in tourism accreditation applications since the pandemic began. From 9,942 accredited tourism enterprises in 2019, there are now 11,868 accredited facilities, representing an increase of 25 percent.
Accredited businesses comply with safety standards, raising consumer or traveler confidence in the process. Local tourism establishments can also show that they have met global health and safety standards through the use of the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe travels.
The WTTC gave the DOT the authority to issue this stamp to eligible stakeholders. By displaying the safe travel stamp, establishments can help rebuild confidence among travelers. Three premier destinations already received the stamp—Baguio City, Boracay Island and Ilocos Norte.
Another positive development for stakeholders involved in food and beverage operation is the IATF decision to expand the seating capacity of restaurants in the National Capital Region.
“To keep the momentum going, we will continue our push for vaccination, the promotion of safe domestic travels, the creation of new or updated guidelines when necessary and the development of tourism products and circuits that reflect the changing preferences of the ‘new normal, traveler,” Puyat said.
“The DOT advocates that travel and tourism can be safe, but fun, even during the pandemic, and that as a major pillar of the Philippine economy and a provider of millions of jobs, we will continue to find possible ways for tourism operations to resume across the country,” she said.