Travel

These Local Destinations Are Next to Reopen to Domestic Tourism

With proper safety protocols in place, of course.
IMAGE FACEBOOK/SAN VICENTE PALAWAN
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The pandemic decimated many industries globally, but perhaps none has been as badly hit as tourism. In the Philippines, the Department of Tourism reported that receipts from tourism plummeted over 83 percent from P482.16 billion in 2019 to P81.40 billion in 2020. 

This is why, despite a still unclear end to the health crisis, some local travel destinations have reopened to help the ailing tourism sector. These include Baguio, Boracay, and Ilocos Norte, all of which reopened to tourists last October. Several other hotspots, such as Bohol, Coron, El Nido, Siargao, Ilocos Sur, and Pangasinan have followed suit and have started accepting local visitors. Most of these destinations have stringent requirements, including a negative COVID-19 test and confirmed hotel bookings, before tourists are allowed entry.

Now the DOT says more cities and provinces are gearing up to reopen to tourists. According to Tourism Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking, both San Vicente and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan are targeting to reopen to domestic tourism on March 15.  

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In addition, Asec Uyking says Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat has been tirelessly going on ground all over the country to inspect or validate destinations nearly every week. 

“Her recent visits aside from San Vicente and Puerto Princesa have been Siquijor, Dumaguete, and Rizal (Province),” he tells Esquire Philippines. “And these are destinations that have already expressed their intention to reopen. But, of course, the timeline is still (to be determined).

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Asked about the recent spike of COVID-19, particularly in Metro Manila, and how the DOT is managing to balance health and safety with the need to spur the economy through tourism, Asec. Uyking it all hinges on the close coordination between the DOT and local government units.

“Some have said that our protocols have been stringent, but that’s because we want to prevent cases from building up because of travel,” he explains. “So far, there have been no instances where cases spiked in a certain province or destination because of tourism. That’s why late last year, when we started really promoting domestic tourism or local travel, we really encouraged the use of contact tracing platforms and health registrations and we work with LGUs to establish border controls, when people travel from one region to another. 

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“So it’s really close collaboration with people on ground. Aside from LGUs, we also work with the private sector to ensure that their establishments such as hotels and resorts really follow the health and safety protocols set by the IATF.”

Uyking reiterated that the decision to reopen to tourists rests with LGUs.

“Most of the time, they would seek our assistance to ensure that all protocols and plans are in line with the protocols set by the IATF (Inter-Angency Task Force). From the DOT side, we’re happy to assist them of course in ensuring that they follow these health and safety protocols because this also protects not only our travelers, but also the local communities in the provinces.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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