Bohol’s tourism embraces a new normal with the introduction of a new seal, reassuring travelers of their health and safety, and preserving hotspots.
Local government officials in the province said that tourism establishments that wish to reopen should secure the Ultimate Bohol Experience (UBE) seal after the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) accreditation. Only those that comply with strict protocols will be granted such recognition, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported.
Among the regulations that should be followed are responsible sewage treatment and use of renewable energy. Speaking about the latter, Governor Arthur Yap emphasized that the province is focusing on promoting sustainable eco-agri-tourism, ensuring that resources are still available in the years ahead.
Aside from the environment-conscious protocols, the UBE seal will likewise cover COVID-prevention measures, according to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA). Tourism establishments will be required to establish a contact tracing system, comply with carrying capacity, and put together an online system for customers’ booking and payments for lesser-contact interactions. Complying with the health and safety protocols set by the national government will be compulsory.
With the UBE seal, more formally called the UBE Seal of Excellence 001, a tourism establishment becomes part of the prioritized businesses when the province welcomes travelers again. A product of collaboration between the public and private sector, the seal was conceptualized by the Bohol Association of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants and the Provincial Tourism Council.
Reopening with Travel Bubbles
Bohol considers reopening its borders to tourists in the last quarter of the year, according to Business Mirror. Governor Yap, however, said that it’s a “moving target.”
The plan is to be part of a “travel bubble,” a travel arrangement between areas that have fewer cases of COVID-19. For this matter, Yap said that their office is consulting with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat about which countries they can partner with. Puyat shared that the tourism agency is already in talks with Korea, Japan, and Australia, countries that have successfully managed the outbreak.
Once travel restrictions are suspended, discussions about direct flight arrangements will follow.
In terms of opening specific hotspots, Yap mentioned that they’re considering Panglao Island and the municipality of Dauis to go first.
Based on the data from DOT-Central Visayas, Bohol saw about 1.58 million tourists in 2019, recording an increase of 5.6 percent from 2018. Over 850,000 were domestic travelers, while some 720,000 were foreigners.
Local Tourism Recovery
In preparation for the anticipated opening, the province is already sprucing up tourism establishments. For one, officials have collaborated with DOT’s Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for a project in Balicasag Island, as well as the rehabilitation of Panglao, covering a P400-million sanitary landfill.
At Alona Beach, authorities have removed illegal structures already as part of the island’s restoration.
Supporting Bohol’s tourism reboot further, the World Bank will be funding some tourism projects for the first quarter of 2021. These include Assistance to Reinvigorate Tourism (ART) Value Chain, Palengke Program, and improvement of hygiene preparedness of tourism sites. The Bohol Water and Sanitation project will likewise be a recipient of the funding.
The local government has renewed the call for the creation of a provincial office for DOT’s Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving. A hotspot for dive sports, Bohol will be able to benefit from a local administrative body that can oversee the industry and especially promote the protection of dive sites.
Tourism on the Greater Central Visayas
Meanwhile, the rest of Central Visayas, namely the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, likewise mulls the idea of reopening tourism and engaging in travel bubbles. The governors of these districts are considering inter-island travels within the region to kickstart tourism activities again and prevent further economic losses, as reported by PNA.
The chiefs, Gwen Garcia of Cebu, Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental, and Zaldy Villa of Siquijor, along with Yap of Bohol, will be meeting on August 12 to discuss tourism exchange plans. The assembly will happen in the province of Siquijor.
Organizing the meeting, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) will be partnering with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, and the National Economic and Development Authority.
Garcia was the one who floated the idea of convening with provincial heads. Saying that it’s better for the four provinces to “work together.” She stressed that now is the best time to begin the tourism recovery process since the quarantine protocols have started to relax the past weeks.
Tourism sites in other parts of the country are adopting the travel bubbles concept. Boracay, for one, has opened its doors to Western Visayas tourists.
Sources: PNA, PIA, Business Mirror