Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said on Tuesday that the reopening of domestic tourism will depend on the readiness of local officials to welcome tourists.
Baguio City has announced the initial reopening of its domestic tourism and will prioritize the entry of local tourists from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1.
Only residents living in nearby provinces such as Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Apayao, as well as Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, and Dagupan City will be permitted to visit the Summer Capital once the gradual domestic tourism reopening pushes through in September.
In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, City Tourism Officer Engr. Aloysius Mapalo said the local government of Baguio City is currently exploring mutual arrangements with the nearby regions but the target reopening of domestic tourism in September is still subject to reassessment depending on the COVID-19 situation in Baguio City.
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong had announced the gradual reopening of the city to local tourists when the city remained COVID-free for about a month. But in recent days, coronavirus cases in Baguio have reemerged prompting local authorities to place several barangays under lockdown.
As of August 10, Baguio’s Health Services reported a total of 166 confirmed cases, of which 59 are active cases. There are also 1,041 suspect cases and 4,206 possible cases that are being strictly monitored.
“September has been our projected reopening schedule since we started planning for recovery, but all subject to the COVID situation in and out of the city,” Mapalo said.
But unlike during the pre-COVID period, the city tourism office will now be regulating Baguio’s carrying capacity in order to properly practice health and safety protocols despite the reopening of tourism.
“We will still determine [the carrying capacity]. It can be as low as 200 or high as 1,000 per day, depending on risk levels,” he said.
“We’re also still getting the pulse of the local residents and advice from local health officers,” he added.
Last week, the tourism office has already released the proposed set of guidelines for the reopening of domestic tourism.
With stricter health and safety protocols, travel to Baguio will soon be relatively expensive as tourists are obliged to shoulder the costs of swab testing at the triage area prior to border entry.
Mapalo said tourists will also be required to pre-register through the Baguio VIS.I.T.A (Visitar Information and Travel Assistance), an online registration system to help the city operation center generate a list of tourists who plan to visit the city.
Pre-booked accommodation arrangements are now also required, including the declaration of the tourists’ travel itinerary.