DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat is set to visit the Summer Capital and find ways to revive the economy.

The visit is intended to check on new normal protocols the city has set up for the slow but eventual opening of the tourism industry.

Gladys Vergara de Vera, chair of the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC), confirmed the visit of the tourism secretary.

“We (the BTC and the city) are preparing for the slow opening of our tourism industry which employs thousands," Vergara de Vera said, adding health and safety protocols are being set and fine-tuned.

The city was first in the country to present to the DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) a plan for the opening of tourism, which conforms to health and safety protocols under the new normal.

Baguio is slowly opening sectors to regain a sense of normalcy and reviving the economy, which slumbered during the community quarantines.

Tourism data shows Baguio City failed to realize 540,000 domestic tourist arrivals in 2020 because of the pandemic. The figure is based on guests received by 299 hotels in 2019.

After the cancellation of the Panagbenga, tourist arrivals dipped by almost 81 percent in February, which extended until May that translated to at least P1.7 billion in unrealized earnings.

Vergara de Vera said close to P7 million was earmarked by the TPB for the city’s promotion and marketing programs aimed to help the city’s economy to bounce back after the slump caused by the pandemic.

Projects include Baguio’s rebranding, marketing and promotions, the set up of the Baguio Creative City website, the “Relive Your Baguio Memories Photo Contest,” and the staging of the “Baguio Fashion Sense.”

BTC is co-chaired by Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, with members coming from the different sectors of the city.

The tourism sector is eying a gradual opening with protocols on health declarations, use of personal protective equipment and physical distancing being set in place by hotels, restaurants and tourism-oriented establishments and open spaces.

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

Galvez said preparations for the reopening of the local tourism sectors in June or July in these two areas are being made, as he visited both to ascertain the situation on the ground of instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte. (With a report from Baguio City Public Information Office)