By Hannah L. Torregoza
The Department of Tourism (DOT) should roll out a detailed action plan to help the country’s tourism sector rise again and adapt to the “new normal” following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Pia Cayetano said the DOT should also come up with a clear set of guidelines for the tourism industry, and ensure this is in line with national and global health standards.
“The reality is, in order to get travelers and tourists to have confidence in our country, our health policies on COVID-related exposures should be consistent with what is set worldwide,” Cayetano told DOT officials during the Senate committee of the whole hearing on the government’s COVID-19 response.
“There are practices out there that may be best for one country but not necessarily for ours. So we would like to know very specifically where any recommendation would come from so that we can assess,” the senator stressed.
For one, the senator said the DOT should start finalizing the guidelines for local travels.
“I know the pressure for our tourism sector to open up is there. I offer my support, but we also want to ensure that we keep safety in mind,” Cayetano noted.
“Any best practices we intend to replicate from other countries should be properly evaluated to make sure they are effective and suitable in the Philippine context,” she further said.
She said the DOT can identify as early as now what safe activities to implement in particular tourist destinations.
“You may come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes, whether it’s 60 or 180 days from now, we can be more ready and we don’t have to debate on it anymore,” she said.
In response, DOT Undersecretary Art Boncato Jr. said the agency is set to roll out “omnibus revised tourism standards anchored on new normal standards, as espoused by the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and also anchored on best practices all around the world.”
Boncato said this covers areas of accommodation, tourist transport, restaurants, hotels, and tour guides, among others. Those in the tourism sector will also be asked to comply with the standard protocols on social distancing, deep sanitation, protective gear, as well as investments of tourism stakeholders in health plans both for their employees and their guests.
In terms of accommodation, Boncato said the DOT plans to mandate a maximum of double occupancy for all hotels, while restaurants will be mandated to have a 50-percent occupancy for dine-in operations.