Select ‘gateways’ mulled for international tourists


THE Department of Tourism (DOT) and tourism stakeholders are discussing the possibility of rebooting the tourism industry by opening select destinations in the country to international travelers.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose C. Clemente III told the BusinessMirror tourism stakeholders and the DOT also discussed ways to further ease the quarantine restrictions to make it easier for vaccinated balikbayans to come home and visit their families, especially this holiday season.

“Lapu-Lapu City is being discussed as a pilot gateway, but the arriving tourists would only stay within Mactan,” where most hotels are located, he underscored. Guests can easily travel from the Mactan Cebu International Airport to their hotels within the city. “They either stay in their hotels, or just move around in the city. Anyway, the point is, they are not confined to their homes [or their home cities],” he added.

However, Clemente underscored, only vaccinated tourists will be allowed entry. “And they can’t cross over the bridge to go to Cebu City [or travel to other cities], he said. Per published reports, Lapu-Lapu City has stepped up its vaccination drive, even going house-to-house in some cases, to get more residents jabbed. As of September 24, some 83 percent (or 3,074) of the targeted 3,717 tourism workers in Lapu-Lapu City have been vaccinated, as per the DOT.

“But we stressed that it has to be some 70 percent of the entire city [or targeted residents],  not just tourism workers, that have to be vaccinated,” before it can reopen to foreign tourists. Local officials have reported that Lapu-Lapu has already reached 56.3 percent of  its targeted vaccination population as of October 13.

Following the Phuket roadmap

The TCP chief said other possible international gateways being eyed are Clark in Pampanga, Bohol, and Metro Manila — all with their own international airports. As with Lapu-Lapu City, only vaccinated international travelers can be allowed entry into these other areas  and they will have to stay within the city. “If they want to leave to go to another destination, they will have to do it after the fifth day of quarantine,” said Clemente. “But they will be allowed to go around within said gateway,” he noted.

The scheme is patterned after the Phuket Sandbox scheme, where vaccinated international tourists are “quarantined” in Phuket for a limited period before being allowed to travel to other places in Thailand.

As of end-September, over 35 percent of Bohol’s targeted population for vaccination have already received their jabs. Bohol has been one of the most active local governments pushing for the its reopening to tourism; last year, it hosted a hybrid MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) event on Panglao Island in partnership with the DOT.

Government officials have said about 70 percent of the target vaccinated individuals in Metro Manila have already been fully dosed, while the DOT has reported that 99 percent of tourism workers in the metropolis have also been jabbed as of October 15.

Published reports showed Pampanga has reached 30 percent of its vaccination target among priority groups — medical frontliners and other essential workers, senior citizens, and individuals with co-morbidities — covering 19 municipalities.

International and local travel restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the Philippine tourism industry to lose over P467 billion in international tourism receipts, and P2.6 trillion in domestic revenue in 2020. About 4.8 million tourism workers have also lost their jobs or are working part-time.

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