BAGUIO CITY, PHILIPPINES – The Department of Tourism (DOT) welcomes the decision of the local government unit (LGU) of Baguio City to open its doors to guests from Luzon, particularly the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions 2 and 3, starting on October 22, 2020, noting that the anticipated influx of tourists will generate tourism activities that will spur a swifter recovery of the industry.
The new development was announced during the DOT -Baguio Post Opening Assessment held today with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Representative Mark Go, and the tourism stakeholders of the City of Pines. The new health and safety measures will be finalized anew together with the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Technical Working Group (TWG).
“Listening to visitors’ and stakeholders’ feedback will be essential for us to keep improving the tourism experience in Baguio, which is the goal of this meeting,” Puyat said in her opening message. Puyat noted that the maximum of 200 guests that will be allowed per day starting October 22 will ensure proper visitor management.
Meanwhile, the documentary requirements will be relaxed in the digital platform called Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance or VIS.I.T.A, which has received an encouraging number of 2,000 registrations and some 200 travel requests since it officially launched on September 22. While the requirement for visitors to book their itineraries through a DOT-accredited tour agency is now optional, they will still be required to book in a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment issued with a Certificate Authority to Operate.
“Now that we have an actual visitor count, the city has an important reference point and valuable feedback on how to move forward from this initial opening period,” Puyat added. The DOT funded VIS.I.TA program for the local government of Baguio through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), to support the city’s reopening to tourists, starting with the Ridge and Reef travel corridor within the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte (BLUPISIN).
“It was a privilege to be working closely with the local government of Baguio during this process. We witnessed firsthand how they came up with effective policies to find the delicate balance between ensuring public safety and reopening for tourism to bring back jobs and livelihoods lost to the pandemic.
The Ridge and Reef Project is one of the pioneering efforts to get our industry back on track, and the whole country is watching closely. Everyone’s determination to get the job done responsibly has been truly inspirational,” the tourism chief enthused. Puyat added that the expansion of the greenlane to include nearby towns La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay or the so called BLISTT is also being worked on with the respective LGUs.
“With its vision to promote a green, peaceful, and family-oriented tourist destination, we are counting on the BLISTT Tourism Council to be a strong ally in the DOT’s ongoing thrust for sustainable tourism development. We commit to support its endeavors as we work with local government units in the coordination and preparation of the area’s eventual reopening,” she said.
Puyat noted other vast improvements seen in Baguio include the increase in the capacity of the city’s critical health care and isolation centers, the addition of newly trained contact tracers to an already efficient team, and the creation of a new triage center for tourists at the CAP Convention Center.
“Another positive development can be attributed to the pilot study for antigen testing, which is now in its final stages and may pave the way for use to screen potential visitors. Since this method is cheaper than the RT-PCR, the gold standard for COVID testing, allowing the use of antigen tests, will surely be welcomed by visitors,” the tourism chief added.