February 9, 2023

Residents who have gotten used to not seeing tourists for two years now would have to contend with the fact that the surge in tourists’ arrival first week of November will carry on until the Yuletide holidays.

City Tourism and Special Events Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said upon declaration of the National Capital Region and Baguio under alert level 3, the city has recorded a surge in tourist arrivals last Oct. 30, 31, and Nov. 1.

From zero tourist arrivals in the past two months when the city was under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions, Mapalo said the three-day holiday resulted in a surge of arrivals.

Last Oct. 30, Baguio recorded 2,630 actual tourist arrivals as processed at the central triage at the Baguio Convention Center, and the three biggest hotels in the city that have their own triage, 2,420 last Oct. 31, and 2,097 last Nov.1

Mapalo said there were other tourists who attempted to enter Baguio but were turned down as their digital travel passes, though approved, does not fall within the dates indicated in their pass.

“For three days we have reached our limit. It appears that this will be the trend during the weekends especially during the holidays,” Mapalo said in a press conference.

The CTSEO has set a limit of 2,000 tourists per day based on the capacity of the central triage of processing returning residents, authorized persons outside residence, and tourists. There were also tourists who were not required to pass through the central triage if booked in hotels that have their own triage.

Mapalo said the business community welcomed the entry of tourists albeit still on a limited scale, as the three days gave them a chance to earn more to keep their businesses running.

“It’s a welcome opportunity but we informed the concerned business establishments that this trend will not be continuous  because tourism is still regulated,” Mapalo said.

Before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic of the Covid-19 in March last year, tourist arrivals during the Christmas season averaged 20,000 to 30,000 tourists per day.

Baguio reopened to tourists in October last year but this has been intermittent because of changes in community quarantine classifications in different localities. Limited public transportation, pre-registration, and the requirement to submit negative RT-PCR results, loss of employment, are also among the factors that contributed to the decline in tourist arrivals, Mapalo said.

The city government meanwhile, is preparing for the gradual easing of public mobility and opening of the economy.

With the increasing vaccination rate, Executive Assistant IV Althea Rosanna Alberto said guidelines are being crafted allowing business establishments to accommodate more clients who are fully vaccinated.

Since not all establishments have scanners that can check vaccination cards, interim guidelines are business establishments with enclosed spaces may be allowed to accommodate 30 percent of the area’s capacity; 50 percent for outdoors, provided that staff and clients are fully vaccinated.

Minors may also be allowed in enclosed spaces but all staff of an establishment should be fully vaccinated, is issued with a safety seal, and those who are 14 years old and below should be accompanied by at least one fully vaccinated companion.

Alberto said allowing establishments to accommodate more clients is one way of giving incentive to those who have been vaccinated.

As of Nov. 5, 198,034 people representing 70.47 percent of the eligible population of 281,000 have been fully vaccinated. 

The city government has recently rolled out vaccination of the pediatric population or those 12 to 17 years old.

As of Nov. 4, 6,626 minors out of the 42,811 targeted pediatric population have been administered with their first dose. – Rimaliza A. Opina