Baguio crafts new tourism plan

BAGUIO. A resident of Barangay Camp 7 looks at the list of names of approved Social Amelioration Program (SAP) applicants posted outside in their barangay hall. Baguio City is practicing maximum transparency in the government’s cash incentive program amid the pandemic. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)
BAGUIO. A resident of Barangay Camp 7 looks at the list of names of approved Social Amelioration Program (SAP) applicants posted outside in their barangay hall. Baguio City is practicing maximum transparency in the government’s cash incentive program amid the pandemic. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

BAGUIO City tourism officer Alec Mapalo presented a recovery plan for the mountain city, changing the face of tourism, to cope with a post-pandemic scenario.

Mapalo said the programs and strategies were crafted with the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC), the private partner of the city to back the Summer Capital’s plan to bounce back after the slump in tourism.

He said a slogan, “Angat Tayo Baguio”, was initially crafted to be the battle cry for the resurgence of the sector as well as its thousands of stakeholders.

Based on City Tourism office data, there are 518 accommodation establishments with over 4,000 employees. The food and beverage sector as well as creatives are not included in the list.

The “Angat Tayo Baguio” mantra aims to drumbeat confidence to the tourism industry as well as a refreshing of products, a lifting of the economy when the city is allowed to accept tourists in the future.

The city has so far lost over P1.4 billion in tourism receipts with peak months set from February onwards.

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.

Mapalo likewise proposed stimulus packages for the sector which include zero to low interest loans, tax rebates, relief, or discounts, a facilitated ease of doing business, waived occupancy tax, waived DOT accreditation application and renewal fees, free attendance to seminars and workshops and trade expos.

Mapalo presented to the city council during Monday’s regular session the new tourism management program.

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.

“A bulk is underground, small accommodations and online Airbnb’s are not registered and not paying taxes, we have to have stricter registration even with individual practitioners like tour guides.” Mapalo said.

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 where tourists first stop to register.

“This is a big challenge, but hopeful to register all tourists arriving in the city as well as impose possibly, regulation and congestion fees, this is the setup of a system to register all tourists.”

Post pandemic scenarios will also include the regulation of events and festivals as gathering will be strictly monitored and the establishment of a “Hop-On and Hop-off” 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.

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