More local travelers from Luzon, including Metro Manila, can now visit Ilocos Sur, as the province plans to further relax restrictions on November 15, as reported by Manila Bulletin. The area has first eased its tourism limits early this October through the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s Ridge to Reef travel corridor, involving Baguio City and the Ilocos region.
It was during the launch of the domestic tourism bubble that Ilocos Sur announced its plans to open the borders to more local visitors, responding to the growing interest of those from Metro Manila.
To be granted entry, visitors must submit a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rT-PCR) test within a 72-hour period. This forms part of the provincial tourism office’s Test Before Travel policy.
The DOT welcomes such development, commending the efforts of the local government to provide opportunities again to tourism workers and businesses, including kutcheros or carriage drivers, waiters, souvenir shops, and tour guides.
Broader Range of Visitors
Ilocos Norte was the first province in the region to welcome visitors coming from outside Northern Luzon. Last October 15, it accepted tourists from the National Capital Region, according to this report from the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The provincial tourism office outlined health and safety protocols to protect visitors and locals. Before entry, guests must secure a travel authority and medical certificate, fill out a health declaration form not earlier than 48 hours, and submit a negative coronavirus test.
An accredited tour agency must accompany visitors, tasked to monitor the tourists and manage the itinerary. The tourism office urges sticking to the planned tour and avoiding going to public markets and highly dense areas where locals gather, to increase safety.
In terms of accommodations, visitors should have a booking in a hotel accredited by the DOT and the provincial government. Staying with relatives or friends in the area isn’t allowed.
Those who plan to visit the province must pre-register on the official website: stayin.ilocosnorte.ph.
At the time of the report, about 200 out of 350 tourism establishments in Ilocos Norte have obtained a certificate to operate.
Domestic Travel Bubble
Meanwhile, Pangasinan and La Union have limited their visitors to those coming from Baguio and provinces in the Ilocos region as part of DOT’s Ridge to Reef initiative.
In the former, five towns have opened borders, as reported by Manila Bulletin. This includes Bolinao, Dasol, Manaoag, Sual, and Alaminos City. The municipalities Anda, Burgos, and Dagupan City are open to locals in Pangasinan only.
At the time of the report, seven accommodation establishments in the province have already secured certificates to operate from DOT, while 271 others have acquired Provisional Certificates of Authority to Operate.
As for La Union, the province reopened during the latter part of September, with the surfing town of San Juan and the grape farms in Bauang welcoming visitors, as mentioned in this Philippine Information Agency (PIA) report.
The local government laid out health and safety protocols for the visitors coming from Baguio City and Ilocos region. This includes submitting health declaration forms, travel authority, and booking confirmation. Tourists must be able to show a negative swab test result as well.
Expansion of Travel Bubble
The domestic travel bubble between Baguio City and the Ilocos region may evolve further, as more Northern Luzon areas express interest to join the tourism movement. According to Sunstar, Benguet towns are mulling the idea of joining the Ridge to Reef travel corridor.
At present, these municipalities are catering to locals. Itogon, a first-class town, has recently opened level 1300 swimming pools, including trekking areas in Mt. Ulap, Mt. Pigingan, and Mt. Ugo. La Trinidad, the capital town, has opened Mt. Costa.
Although protocols are not final yet, government officials urge tourists to inform the province of their visit. For their part, they will hold a workshop to identify readily available sites.
Under the current guidelines of Ridge to Reef initiative, tourists are required to go to the Visitor Information and Travel Assistance or VISITA website, where they can register and provide travel information, schedule a visit, choose a travel agent, and upload hotel booking confirmation.
Visitors can likewise fill out a health declaration form on this website, as well as present coronavirus test results.
Once done, the digital platform will produce a QR-coded tourist pass or QTP, which will serve as electronic identification for crossing borders and entering tourism establishments.
Sources: Manila Bulletin, Philippine News Agency, Philippine Information Agency, Sunstar,