BAGUIO CITY – The country’s summer capital opens its doors, and offer its cool climate only to visitors from Region 1 (La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte) on September 21, creating a tourism bubble in a bid to gradually open the city’s economy.
City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said the agreement on the gradual opening of tourism was forged during a meeting of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, representatives from the different provincial governments, representatives from the tourism sector and the city government at the Baguio Country Club as part of the 111th Chartered City celebration.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Ilocos Sur 2nd District Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson, Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino III and Ilocos Norte Gov. Mathew Joseph Manotoc to jumpstart the establishment of the Baguio-Region I tourism corridor that will be geared towards slowly, cautiously and safely opening up the tourism industry in Northern Luzon.
Witnessing the signing of the MOU were Romulo-Puyat, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operations Officer Maria Antonette Velasco Allones, Intramuros Administrator Atty. Guiller Asido, Department of Tourism (DOT) Region I Director Joseph Francisco Ortega, who also represented La Union Gov. Francisco Emmanuel Ortega, and DOT-CAR officer-in-charge Jovy Ganongan.
Mapalo said, tourists will have to pre-register using the VIS.I.T.A app that will be available on android and IOS cellular phones. The acronym stands for Visitors Information and Tourist Assistance, and will be jointly utilized by the local government units (LGUs) in keeping with the tourism reopening plan of the Baguio to assure compliance to health protocols.
He said visiting tourists will not be allowed to stay with a relative or a friend's house as a health precaution.
Upon registering, they will need to show proof of booking with a hotel that was issued a certificate authorizing operation (CAO) from the Department of Tourism and the local government. They must also be assisted by an accredited tour agency that will manage their itinerary.
Upon arrival at the borders, the tourists will be led to the triage where they will be swab tested at their own expense, and wait for the result at the hotel.
For a negative result, the tourist can pursue with his or her itinerary, while a positive result will be immediately handled by the LGU and the hotel.
Mapalo said the city government wants to make sure that the establishment would be compliant with the health standards, and has a response plan, while the tour agency will assure a monitored itinerary to avoid going to prohibited places.
Magalong said that in planning to reopen tourism in Baguio, the city was only looking at neighboring towns in Region 1, which were not heavily hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
He said the city and the four provinces will jointly undertake the "bubble" tourism corridor where their residents can visit each other’s tourism destinations.
"This is just a start but we can expand to cover and allow those from other areas as we progress to the full opening of tourism under the new normal."
Biking and boating at Burnham Park, horseback riding at Wright Park, Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park and Mines View Park was open on September 1 for local residents only, as part of the local government’s efforts to gradually open the tourism industry and first to enjoy the gains of the city’s parks during the implementation of the community quarantine to relax and take a breather after having been confined in their residences for several months.
Magalong said residents must abide by the stringent health and safety protocols, particularly the mandatory wearing of face mask, the observance of physical distancing, and the practice of personal hygiene.
The Botanical Garden will not yet be opened to the public because of the ongoing renovation being done in the flower gardens as an added attraction for the people once it will be formally opened within the next several months.
The City Tourism Office will be frequently providing the public with the updates on the city’s bid to open the tourism industry to people from other outside the city for the revival of the local economy.