By Hanah Tabios
Tourists who like taking “groufie” (or a group selfie) shots at local travel destinations in the country won’t be able to do so under the new normal scenario, as the Department of Tourism (DOT) is set to impose stricter physical distancing guidelines on tours.
“Hindi na yata puwede yung magkakadikit tayo at nag-seselfie, dapat importante may physical distancing (Taking selfies together will no longer be possible because there has to be physical distancing),” Tourism chief Berna Romulo-Puyat said in a live television interview aired over GMA Network’s morning show Unang Hirit on May 28, Thursday morning.
Puyat also said that the DOT will limit the number of tourists visiting a local travel destination to half of the ideal capacity.
She said wearing face masks is also mandatory.
“Hindi na puwede ‘yung isang tourist site ‘yung punong-puno. Maybe kalahati lang muna unti-unti, hindi na pwede ‘yung nagsisiksikan,” she added.
[Translation: We won’t be allowing crowds in tourist sites. Maybe, we’ll allow half of the usual capacity, but we cannot allow overcrowding.]
According to Puyat, some tourism stakeholders do not favor the proposed setup. But she stressed that DOT will not allow tourism to be a vehicle for the spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease as the industry recovers.
Meanwhile, responding to reports about the DOT making the Baguio City, Baler in Aurora, and Bohol province as models of tourism in the “new normal,” Puyat said she has been in constant communication with the concerned local government units to discuss all relevant health and safety protocols for the tourism industry.
To note, Baguio City, under the leadership of retired police general and now Mayor Benjamin Magalong has been praised for its anti-COVID-19 measures.
Magalong said there has been a “seamless collaboration” between law enforcement, investigators, and health authorities in the region, which has led to their effective yet aggressive contact tracing.
Baler and Bohol—the former a go-to place for surfers, while the latter is famous for its Chocolate Hills—have been put under strict quarantine measures by their respective LGUs, which vowed not to lower their guard even with the relaxation of quarantine protocols throughout the country.
Puyat also said she is set to talk to Magalong for the possible reopening of Baguio City, and to discuss the enforcement of physical distancing and other safety protocols for tourists and businesses.