Four provinces in the Ilocos region and this city will reopen their borders to tourists from these areas starting September 21 to spur tourism in the north Luzon corridor.
The provincial governments of Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte signed a memorandum of agreement during a meeting with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat at the Baguio Country Club on Tuesday.
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the provinces and Baguio City would jointly do the “bubble” tourism corridor wherein their residents could visit the region’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,” he said.
Magalong, who hosted the meeting on the sidelines of the 111th Baguio Charter Day anniversary, said the participating local government units (LGUs) would initially accept tourists from among them.
He said in reopening Baguio’s tourism industry, the city is only eyeing tourists from neighboring towns in the Ilocos region that have a low incidence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
LGUs will use the VIS.I.T.A app, or the Visitors Information and Tourist Assistance app, which was developed by Baguio using funds from the Tourism Promotions Board.
Baguio City tourism officer, Aloysius Mapalo, said tourists would have to pre-register using the app and have to be booked in a hotel that has obtained a certificate authorizing operation (CAO) from the Department of Tourism and the local government.
Mapalo said the tourists must also be assisted by an accredited tour agency that would manage their itinerary.
“We will require it so that we can make sure that the establishment is 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,” he said.
Mapalo clarified that tourists will not be allowed to stay with relatives or friends as a health precaution.
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.
Tourists with a negative result can proceed with their itinerary, while those who test positive would be handled by the LGU and the hotel.
During the event, Puyat said the tourism sector has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with an estimated loss of PHP1.6 billion in gross receipts.
She welcomed the move of northern Luzon’s local officials to collaborate and reopen regional tourism, saying this could be the sector’s start in picking up under the new normal.
“Mukhang kayo ang mauunang magbubukas sa turista (it looks like you will be the first to reopen your tourism industry). Everything is in place,” Puyat said.
“I receive several calls from establishments to allow the opening of tourism in their places but this is a decision lodged (with) the LGUs. We will not push the opening of places to tourists if they are not ready.”
In the same event, Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson said they were happy that “this is happening” and that Baguio has included them in its plan.
“We have wanted to open our tourism but we are at a loss on how to do it. But Baguio, under Mayor Magalong’s leadership, already has everything laid down. We will join the bandwagon for the North Luzon tourism corridor,” Singson said in Ilocano. (PNA)