BAGUIO

Virtual festivals studied

TALK on virtual festivals is in the works.

Baguio City Tourism Office head Alec Mapalo said the city is looking into new practices on how to implement traditional programs like festivals when the city adopts the "new normal."

Mapalo said after Panagbenga Festival was canceled, the Creative Festival in November is being eyed as the first activity to be on a virtual platform.

“Of course this will be depending on the situation at the time and (we will decide), how much virtual and actual we will have for the Creative Festival,” he said.

Mapalo said the city wants to pursue the festival as it features cultural identity of the city as well as crafts which catapulted the city into the international UNESCO creative cities network.

The tourism officer added the city is studying potential platforms for selling crafts and artworks and expand capabilities to allow e-commerce which will be launched in the supposed creative event in November.

Plans for the festival include pre-recorded performances and craft-making videos.

Earlier, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the Philippines' national action plan against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), said the province of Bohol in Central Visayas and the city of Baguio in the Cordillera region are being considered as pilot areas for the implementation of "new normal" policies.

Galvez said preparations in June or July for the reopening of the local tourism sectors in these two areas are being made as both are among the areas he visited to ascertain the situation on the ground on instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mapalo, meanwhile, said in the new normal, the city will be adapting a challenge as to the number of visitors allowed into the city is being faced.

“There are talks now of limiting the people coming in little by little. We look at the capacity for each attraction, the number of tourists coming in for certain period. This is the time to enhance, refresh and reset our tourism offering and tourism management,” Mapalo said adding in the new normal, all tourists may be required to register in tourism sites.

Mapalo also acknowledged a general blooming and cleanliness in parks as enhanced community quarantine restricted movement of the public, saying the challenge today is to maintain the state of the parks to retain its beauty.

“The City Environment and Parks Management Office is planning to schedule maintenance periods for parks with suggestions of a possible once a week closure for cleanup and even talks on a one month closure during the lean season,” Mapalo said.

Previously, Mapalo presented a recovery plan for the mountain city crafted with the Baguio Tourism Council with the slogan ‘Angat Tayo Baguio’ initially as battle cry for the resurgence of the sector including its thousands of stakeholders.

Mapalo detailed four strategies to tackle the biggest problem the tourism sector is facing -- loss of income and tourist confidence.

Strategies include effective crisis management and communication; community and interagency support system; resiliency and recovery and programs and promotions with outcomes hoped to be geared to a rejuvenated confidence and tourism products and services and local economy.

Proposed stimulus packages for the sector include zero to low interest loans; tax rebates/relief/discounts; a facilitated ease of doing business; waived occupancy tax; waived Department of Toursim accreditation application and renewal fees; free attendance to seminars; and workshops and trade expos.

The new program changes the face of how the city handles tourists starting with a mandated registration of all tourism related establishments and individual practitioners.

The move will push all tourism establishments to register with the government and pay taxes.

Among the plans are to mandate tourism-related establishments to adapt sustainable, responsible and environmentally friendly tourism practices as well as to set up a visitors' center as first stop for tourists to register.

Post-pandemic scenarios will also include the regulation of events and festivals as gatherings are to be strictly monitored and the establishment of a “Hop-On and Hop-off” bus for tourists.

New tools for tourist information needs, tourist apps, QR codes for tourist attractions and tool for a tourist feedback mechanism as well with online surveys are in the pipeline.

The city has so far lost over P1.4 billion in tourism receipts with peak months set from February onwards but since the closing of borders and restricted movement, losses’ in the tourism industry have ballooned. (With a report from SunStar Philippines)


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