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Promising Days to come For PH Tourism

The Philippine travel and tourism industry may now be showing signs of revival.

Domestic travel has begun to pick up as the government begins to loosen restrictions and movements in the capital region and neighboring provinces, and more tourism-related companies have been permitted to reopen. These improvements are critical not just in reviving the jobs of displaced tourist employees, but also in assisting the industry's overall revival.

Interzonal mobility of people going in and out of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces remains permitted under Resolution 124 of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), subject to the limits of relevant Local Government Units (LGU).

Relaxed Restrictions

Domestic visitors of all ages are currently free to travel from the so-called NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal) to GCQ and modified GCQ (MGCQ) locations, subject to certain limitations.

Furthermore, under IATF Resolution 125, children aged 5 and up in MGCQ and GCQ regions, except those subject to heightened restrictions, may be allowed to visit outdoor places, including tourist sites, if they are accompanied by an adult and follow basic public health requirements.

As stated in the updated IATF guidelines: “Point-to-point travel to areas under GCQ and modified GCQ shall be allowed without age restrictions subject to an RT-PCR test-before-travel requirement for those below 18 years old and above 65, and other protocols and restrictions as may be imposed by the DOT and the local government unit of destination.”

Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) events at qualifying venues are permitted up to 40% of the venue capacity, while social events in the same establishments are allowed up to 10% of the venue capacity in regions under GCQ with some limits. This is not yet permitted in GCQ areas with heightened limitations, such as Laguna and Cavite.

For Metro Manila, Rizal, and Bulacan, indoor tourist attractions, historical sites and museums as defined by the DOT may operate at 40 percent capacity, while outdoor tourist attractions shall remain allowed at 50 percent with strict adherence to minimum public health standards.

The decision also said that the DOT's specialty markets, such as staycations without age limits, will continue to be authorized as long as the lodging businesses adhere to the agency's capabilities, protocols, and regulations. Outdoor tourism attractions would be authorized at 30% of the venue capacity in GCQ areas with heightened limitations, such as Laguna and Cavite, with strict adherence to minimum public health requirements, according to the IATF.

Staycations without age limits will continue to be permitted, and businesses with Safety Seal Certifications will be permitted to operate at a capacity that is 10% larger than the specified on-site or seating capacity. For intrazonal and interzonal travel, the IATF has permitted local government units to accept fully vaccinated persons, including elderly citizens, who can produce their COVID-19 domestic vaccination card as an alternative to RT-PCR testing.

Senior citizens who have been fully vaccinated are only permitted to travel inside GCQ and MGCQ regions. However, certain Local Government Units (LGUs) may still require fully vaccinated tourists to produce a negative RT-PCR test result before allowing them to enter.

Gradual Recovery

The easing of restrictions bodes well for the Philippine tourist sector, which has had a rough year.

According to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) statistics, the tourism industry's contribution to the economy fell to its lowest level in at least two decades in 2020, owing to the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to preliminary statistics gathered by the PSA, tourism's direct gross value added (TDGVA) in 2020 would account for 5.4 percent of GDP, down from 12.8 percent in 2019. Based on available statistics dating back to 2000, this was the lowest in at least 20 years. The last time the industry contributed 5.6 percent to the country's GDP was in 2000 and 2002 when it contributed 5.6 percent.

Some analysts predict that the tourist sector, which is heavily reliant on people's mobility and face-to-face connection, would likely recover in two to three years, or by 2024 at the earliest, to pre-pandemic levels.

However, all of these events, including the mass vaccination of tourist workers, are moving the Philippines closer, if slowly, to the gradual resuscitation of a pandemic-devastated industry, whose return will undoubtedly have a far larger, much more important influence on the Philippine economy.

Source: Inquirer Lifestyle

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