Boracay Opens Doors to Young and Old Tourists from Western Visayas

Tourists from Western Visayas, including children and seniors, can now travel to Boracay, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported.

Previously, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) placed a ban on younger and older travelers, below 21 and above 60 years old, when the island opened last June 16. 

On July 23, the agency lifted the restrictions, allowing essentially everyone from Western Visayas to visit the tourist spot. In particular, this refers to travelers coming from Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental, which are all under MGCQ.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) announced the good news, with Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat saying that it’s a step towards bringing back the dynamism of the tourism economy. It’s likewise an answer to stakeholders’ appeal to woo more travelers, she mentioned.

Protocols in Place

As of July 23, there were a total of 115 certificates of authority to operate (CAO) issued to accommodation establishments in the region, providing 2,635 rooms, which are all compliant with the government’s health and safety standards.

Since June 10, the DOT and IATF have implemented the ‘No DOT Certification, No Operation’ policy on accommodation establishments (AEs). These tourism sites include hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, tourist inns, motels, and pension houses. It also covers private homes used for homestay, ecolodges, serviced apartments, condotels, and bed and breakfast facilities. 

Applying for the certification is free. AEs that are recognized by DOT should only present a Letter of Intent to Operate to the DOT regional office in their locale, while the non-DOT-accredited AEs should register for accreditation for verification of compliance to requirements.

Protection for Tourism Frontliners

Aside from making sure that tourism establishments are compliant with health and safety protocols, the government likewise seeks to safeguard the workers in such environments. The House of Representatives, for one, calls for the acceleration of expanded COVID-19 testing for tourism frontliners, according to GMA News Online

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he supports the plan of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to include in the testing operations the non-medical frontliners who don’t show symptoms of the disease. 

Appealing to the DOT to communicate closely with Task Force Test, Trace, Treat and its private stakeholders, he urged the fast execution of the plan on workers in major tourist attractions in the country. Cayetano pointed out that it’s crucial for securing a safe working environment for frontliners.

Moreover, it can help speed up the industry’s recovery, as it will build trust and confidence among domestic travelers.

Back in June, the House of Representatives approved the proposed P1.3 trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) on the third and final reading, PNA reported. The tourism industry has a share of about P58 billion, earmarked to help affected enterprises in terms of finances and resources. 

Among the proposed relief assistance programs is the offering of interest-free loans and loan-guarantees with terms of up to five years for maintenance and operating expenses. On top of this, there will be grants for education and training for new normal alternative livelihood programs. With the budget, the tourism industry is set to use information technology as well in improving tourism services.

Travelers’ Pulse

In a recent survey, the DOT found interesting insights on the travel preferences and concerns of Filipinos post-pandemic. Among other things, they concluded that domestic tourism will be a key driver in rebooting the industry, as 77 percent of the surveyed participants said they’re open to the idea of traveling to local destinations once the community quarantine measures and travel bans ease up. More than half are, in fact, expectant to take a vacation even though a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t available yet.

At the top of travel preferences among the surveyed is beach trips. Along with Siargao, Boracay leads the list of destinations they want to visit.

Although there’s great interest in traveling again, travelers would want to be assured of health and safety. According to the survey, more than 80 percent of the participants expect that tourism establishments will adopt the highest quality of sanitation protocols, while 88 percent said that they’re willing to follow health and safety policies, including rapid testing and presenting a medical certificate before going to a tourist site.

More people prefer self-service arrangements in traveling, such as contactless check-in and digital payments. In terms of activities on the actual destination, limited face-to-face interactions with people are increasingly becoming popular.

Sources: PNA, Department of Tourism, GMA News Online

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