DOT backs sustainable, safe tourism program of Baguio
Quality rather than quantity.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has pitched support to the initiatives of Baguio City to revive and eventually reopen its tourism industry, taking into account safety and sustainability even with the Covid-19 crisis.
In her keynote address as guest of honor of the city’s 111th Charter Day celebration on Sept. 1, Puyat said the DOT shall continue to work together with the city government and tourism stakeholders to sustainably and safely rebuild the industry and bring back jobs, livelihood, and security to the city.
She said the Tourism Promotions Board, DOT’s attached corporation, has committed to fund programs that spur the recovery of the city’s tourism industry, through its collaboration with the city government and the Baguio City Tourism Council in the implementation of five major projects: the multi-platform digital monitoring application Baguio VIS.I.T.A., sponsorship of a photo contest, establishment of a Baguio rebranding marketing and promotional project, setting up of the Baguio Creativity City website, and reviving the city’s weaving and fashion industry.
The DOT has put together a task force to focus on domestic tourism, which involves the identification of key indicators when the destination is ready, including the willingness or support of local leaders and communities and the capacity to handle health emergencies.
Puyat said they will not force LGUs to reopen for tourism and will closely coordinate with residents and local tourism councils for such plans because health and safety is a priority.
She said Baguio can anticipate reopening to tourists from its neighbors and visitors from Region 1, given how the city responded to the pandemic and put in place protocols and devised a contact tracing technique that has become a template for other regions and recognized by the World Health Organization.
Puyat cited the city for being one of the first LGUs to respond to the Covid-19 crisis when as early as January Mayor Benjamin Magalong has suspended the 2020 edition of the Panagbenga – a swift action, along with strict compliance to lockdown measures, that averted what could have been a dire situation given the nature of the annual festival as a crowd drawer.
She said the low number of Covid-19 cases in the city can also be attributed to the thorough process of testing, tracing, and isolating that continue to be implemented.
The secretary lauded the city’s detailed guidelines when soon tourists will be allowed to enter the city, such as tourists will be regulated and monitored through the Baguio VIS.I.T.A., where anyone who wishes to enter Baguio must pre-register and pre-book accommodations and undergo mandatory triage and PCR test at their own expense.
She also recognized the initiative of the city in preparing to enter into a Ridge to Reef tourism bubble with partner local government units with similarly low or zero risk areas, particularly Region 1.
“As Baguio readies to open its doors, we are being given the opportunity now to refocus on sustainable and responsible tourism taking into account quality rather than the quantity of tourists entering this iconic and beloved destination.
Baguio is more than just a place for visitors’ escape for its cool weather. It is an important and creative center whose rich religious, ethnic and artistic heritage brings deep pride to the Northerners who call this area home. It is your city’s strong sense of shared identity that has always pulled Baguio through previous disasters,” Puyat said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana