HOLIDAY getaways have remained possible in Eastern Visayas despite the new normal brought by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Karen Tiopes, Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director, assured travelers and visitors that they are positioning a responsible restart for Eastern Visayas tourism, following the issuance of various guidelines on the operation of tourism enterprises in the new normal from DOT central office.

“That is why for the Eastern Visayas tourism to restart, we are positioning the region to be known as a destination with infinite escapes to experience and offers sites and activities that are fun yet, at the same time, promotes safety and wellness,” Tiopes said.

“By having guidelines on the operation of tourism sites, we are actually able to accomplish two things - promote wellness and help build back the confidence of our target market to travel again,” she added.

According to Tiopes, they drafted a manual to promote the health and safety of guests, tourism workers and service providers alike.

“Once people see that their safety is of utmost importance in our tourism sites, they will start to feel that there is not much to worry about. When our target domestic markets also start to see that Eastern Visayans are safely going to their tourism sites, this will also give them the message that Eastern Visayas indeed is a safe destination and may consider putting us in their list once they start traveling to other regions again,” Tiopes told Sunstar Philippines.

With the lowering of the Covid-19 risk level in many parts of Eastern Visayas, Tiopes said many tourism facilities that comply with the guidelines have already reopened.

“Next in line are the tourism sites and activities. However, we have to do this with care to make sure that health and safety protocols are in place consistently followed by both service providers and guests,” she said.

For their first assessment, Tiopes and her team visited Calbayog City sites in collaboration with the Calbayog City Tourism Office to see how their health and safety manual is adopted and implemented by the local government unit (LGU).

“One challenge we are faced though is the level of willingness of our target tourists to travel again at this time. That is why we will initially target local tourists - Eastern Visayans traveling around Eastern Visayas. However, for now, many of our LGUs who have already opened up some of their tourism sites only allow their local community to initially visit their sites,” Tiopes said.

The tourism industry has been one, if not the most affected industries when Covid-19 struck, according to the tourism official.

“The need to follow health and safety protocols remain paramount, however, we also have to nurture back our economy - open up businesses, resume the operation of tourism sites, bring back jobs, continue the livelihood that were temporarily stopped as a result of impositions made to put to a minimum the spread of the virus,” Tiopes added. (SunStar Philippines)