Restarting local tourism in the ‘new normal’

The “new normal,” is slowly easing its way into the daily lives and mindsets of Filipinos – most regions are now transitioning to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), where tourism can already resume in the latter.

Baler, Aurora is known for its laidback provincial charm. FACEBOOK PHOTO/BALER MUNICIPAL TOURISM OFFICE

As such, the Department of Tourism (DoT) is now, more than ever, pushing for local tourism, with new guidelines to ensure safety.

“We shall now focus on domestic travel to jumpstart tourism in the country and begin to bring back tourism livelihood. Towards this end, the DoT shall continue to make the safety and health of tourists and tourism workers its utmost priority,” said DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat in a press conference via Zoom.

San Juan, La Union is popular for surfers and those who want to experience modern Filipino culture. FACEBOOK PHOTO/PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF LA UNION

“We have been closely coordinating with public and private stakeholders, and more importantly, local government units in preparing and assessing their respective areas’ readiness to support the resumption of tourism activities.”

The significant changes would be seen in guest handling; reception and concierge; rooms and housekeeping; food and beverage service; kitchen sanitation and disinfection; public areas; and hotel and transport service.

Accommodations would only be allowed if they have a Certificate of Authority to Operate and have to strictly follow physical distancing, contact tracing, and other safety measures.

Aside from conducting temperature checks and providing more hand sanitizers, DoT advised that accredited hotels and resorts should have OFWs and health workers in a one person-one room policy.

Other guests will be allowed to stay in double occupancy rooms with at least a two-meter distance and a divider between the beds. A bathroom schedule must also be followed. Each room will be given a sanitation kit to be used by the guests to disinfect the bathroom and common items such as light switches and door knobs. Socializing with other guests as well as sharing of food is not allowed.

Romulo-Puyat noted they are also looking into the practices of other countries that have opened up tourist spots after the lockdown. These include beaches having ribbons on where to walk and stay, and measured social distancing.

Road trip season

In a survey conducted by the DoT in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management and Guide to the Philippines, the top destinations that Filipinos would want to travel to after the quarantine include Boracay, Siargao, Baguio, Metro Manila, and Cebu.

However, Romulo-Puyat noted that the department and the industry will still have to restore the confidence of tourists to be able to travel, and going to destinations by land would be the best way to restart.

This leaves Baler, La Union, and Batangas as the top three destinations the department can focus on.

“From the point of view of Metro Manila, these destinations are the closest as they can be travelled to by land. We are seeing that once travel restrictions are lifted, and LGUs are prepared to open their areas for tourism, most people will prefer land travel at first,” Romulo-Puyat told The Manila Times Lifestyle in a text message.

DoT is now in touch with the LGUs of the three provinces to tackle solid plans and preparations.

Baler, Aurora — a five to six-hour drive from Manila — is paradise for surfers given the good tide and an ideal destination for road trips because of the scenic views and zigzag roads.

Also a surf town is La Union, which has become a haven for experiencing both traditional and modern Filipino culture, catching strong waves, eating fresh food, and going out to a more relaxed nightlife. Additionally, guests keep coming back because of the warm hospitality of the local community.

Kapeng barako, filling food, and serene beaches have continuously attracted tourists to visit Batangas. A three-hour road trip easily calls for a fun experience with various activities such as diving, camping, hiking, or simply enjoying life by the shore.

In ending, the secretary said, “One of the many things that tourists love about our country is how hospitable, caring and happy the Filipino people are. [Our campaigns are] a reminder of what is good in all of us, especially in our most challenging and desperate times.”


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