After eight months of closure, the provincial government of Samar has reopened to local tourists seven major community-based eco-tourism destinations in four towns.
The sites that started welcoming tourists on Nov. 16 are the Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride and the Paranas Ecotrail and Birding Site in Paranas town; San Juan by the Bay in Sta Rita; Balantak Falls, Saob Cave, and Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge in Basey; and the Lulugayan Falls and Ecovillage in Calbiga towns.
The attractions are managed by people’s organizations, whose members are mainly dependent on tourism for their livelihood.
The sites are only open to visitors from the Eastern Visayas region, said provincial tourism officer Marvin Piczon in an interview on Wednesday.
Samar is the first province in Eastern Visayas, which decided to open its selected tourist destinations amid the threats of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in the past eight months.
To visit, tourists are required to make reservations for the establishments to follow the 50 percent total capacity rule, Piczon said.
Visitors are also required to present a valid medical certificate and travel authority before they are allowed to enter the eco-tourism sites. Only tourists from areas under modified general community quarantine status are allowed to come.
The operators of the tourist’s destination will only accept tourists aged 16 to 64.
Visitors are asked to contact the tourism office of the Province of Samar or that of the town of their destination, according to Piczon.
Before the opening, the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism (DOT) assessed the preparedness of Samar’s tourism players to operate under the new normal.
Preparations and careful planning were also made by the province with the help of the DOT regional office to ensure the safety and well-being of tourists when they visit the sites.
This also goes to other tourist destinations in other provinces of the region in case the provincial and the local government decided that these are ready to welcome tourists, said DOT Eastern Visayas Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes.
“We need to ensure that our visitors will not get sick or infected by the virus during their visit so that no one will be blamed when an incident like those happens,” she added.
The official said that even if they want to reopen all tourist destinations, the final decision will still have to come from the local governments and the organizations managing the sites if they are ready or not to accept tourists.
Next week, Samar local officials and the DOT will meet to discuss protocols imposed by other provinces that have already opened their doors for inter-regional tourism, like Palawan, Bohol, and Baguio which Samar can copy and implement for the reopening the province to tourists outside the region. (PNA)