BAGUIO

200 tourist capacity set in Baguio City

UNCERTAIN. A broom vendor is not optimistic the planned easing on travel to Baguio City will rebound to more sales. Brooms are now bought by locals instead of tourists bringing them home as staple pasalubong. (Jean Nicole Cortes)

A 200 tourist a day capacity is being studied for the September 21 opening of Baguio City for visitors.

City Tourism Officer Alec Mapalo said the number has been initially set as a manageable size for easy monitoring of movement in the name of safety.

Mapalo faced the City Council during Monday's (September 14) regular session and briefed the legislative body of plans for the eventual opening tourism bubbles to Ilocos partner sites.

"Two hundred individuals a day. This is very minimal because we can accommodate more than 200 because of hotels and parks which are open, but this will be easier to monitor," Mapalo said, adding the number can be increased gradually depending on results of the initial opening.

This month, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by Ilocos Sur Second District Representative Kristine Singson Mehan, Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr., Ilocos Norte Governor Mathew Marcos Manotoc and Ilocos Norte Governor Ryan Luis Singson, who all agreed to partner with Baguio City to craft "tourism bubbles" and carefully crafted package tours that are in accordance to health protocols.

The MOU is an expression of mutual support and understanding, expansion of official and non-governmental exchanges and friendship through the promotion of tourism and stability, the city of Baguio, Provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte [Blupisin].

Mapalo said the city is sticking to the small number despite some complaints from the hotel industry lamenting not all hotels may have guests with the minimal number set.

Mapalo said guests who may have relatives or friends in the city will not be allowed to stay in residential homes and are constrained to book hotel accommodations to abide by health sector recommendations to keep residential abode free from travelers.

"Our hotel will become partners and they engaged in tour operators and assign tour guides to monitor areas and visitor movement... if they stay with family and friends it will be hard to monitor," Mapalo added.

Signatories to the MOU were Benadette Romulo Puyat, Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary; Maria Antoinette Velasco Allones, chief operating officer, Tourism Promotions Board; Guiller Asido, administrator and chairperson, Task Force on Domestic tourism Product and Market Development; Gladys Vergara-De Vera, chair of the Baguuo Torusm Council; Jovita Ganongan, officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism Cordillera; and Joseph Francisco Ortega, DOT-Ilocos director.

Careful and strategic tours, as well as guidelines are now being finalized and synched with the Provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte for the exchange, which is set to be launched September 21.

At the moment, tourists will also be prohibited to visit the Baguio Public Market, as the area is one of the most crowded sites in the city.

La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay areas will also be closed to city visitors to respect decisions of the neighboring towns to seal their areas from tourists at the movement.

Mapalo admitted on Monday, September 14, that guidelines for border management have yet to be finalized ending meetings with Ilocos, but assured that pre-determined stopovers will be set for areas only open for the tourism.

He added no areas in Benguet will be allowed to become pit stops for arriving tourists.

Carpooling will be allowed for tourists provided they adhere to health protocols and capacity of vehicles and prior coordination with registered tour operators will be made, as well as a pre-booking of accommodations are completed.

Tour guides will also be assigned to each group of tourists to ensure monitoring and adherence to health and safety protocols are followed.

Mapalo said Covid-19 testing for arriving tourists will also be made but they are still awaiting the health department's protocols on what tests to administer following a rejection of antigen testing by the national agencies this week.

The Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (Visita) application will be used to register and approve incoming tourists in the planned partial opening of tourism to the four areas.


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