Some tourist sites’ staff still masked despite Covid rule easing on guests


HOTELS and restaurants associations welcomed the easing of government’s  Covid-19 directives covering their guests’ masking and presentation of vaccination cards, and installation of protective dividers. Some of their members though, may still require their respective staff to keep their masks on and still follow minimum public health standards.

Benito C. Bengzon Jr., managing director of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association told the BusinessMirror, “We welcome the decision of the Department of Tourism [DOT] to further ease restrictions on the masks and vaccination cards. We support measures that will help accelerate the normalization of operations in tourism.”

He added, “On the part of hotels, we will continue to ensure we provide safe and comfortable experience to our guests.” Since the DOT memorandum circular indicates that the wearing of masks in tourism enterprises will now be voluntary, said Bengzon, “It will be up to the individual hotels to decide on whether they will still require their staff to keep their masks on, while attending to guests.”

The DOT on March 5 released a new memorandum circular allowing tourism enterprises to lift the requirement for guests and clients to show proof of full vaccination, and the wearing of face masks. The DOT also said it no longer requires tourism establishments to install plastic, acrylic barriers and dividers in designated areas, and likewise ordered the removal of signages, visual cues, and other installations on mandatory protocols. (See, “DOT drops mask, vaxx proof for tourism entities,” in the BusinessMirror, March 6, 2023.)

For Eric Teng, president of the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines, “That move  [DOT issuance of memo circular] is most welcome. Restaurants are seeing their customers back and we must get back to our normal lives.”

He added, “While masks are no longer mandated for some time now, we still recommend for our staff to keep their masks on.”

According to Boracay Foundation Inc. chairman Dindo Salazar, even before the DOT memo was issued, many tourism establishments on Boracay Island “have already eased some restrictions like removing the acrylic barriers, as we have already been receiving a lot of guests, that it has become hard to continue following it.

We have to live with Covid, that’s why we urged our employees to take the booster vaccines.”

Speaking as assistant vice president-Boracay Resorts Operations of the Henann Group, Salazar stressed, “We are 100-percent vaccinated with first and second does, and 80 percent of our employees have already received two boosters. We took it upon ourselves to safeguard our health especially that tourists may not be fully vaccinated. Next week, we will also be lifting face masks for our staff, but only for those who had been administered with four doses. This is to keep our workforce safe to better serve the tourists.”

The Hotel Sales and Marketing Association Inc. believes “the new safety protocols…also signifies the ‘normalizing’ of the market landscape which will encourage travelers/tourists to stay in hotels.”

The group underscored, however, that hotels will “continue to observe minimum health standards in our daily operations as we consider best practices implemented during the pandemic. The health and safety of our guests and staff will always remain a priority and the new protocols will not change our mindset and priority.”

HSMA president Loleth So noted that their staff at Belmont Hotel, for instance, are still masked. “For other hotels, it will depend on their respective management’s directive,” she added.

Memorandum Circular 2023-0002 signed by Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, covers tourism enterprises such as “facilities, services, and other attractions involved in tourism, such as, but not limited to: travel and tour services; tourist transport services, whether for land, sea or air transportation; tour guides; adventure sports services involving such sports as mountaineering, spelunking, scuba diving, and other sports activities of significant tourism potential; convention organizers; accommodation establishments, including, but not limited to, hotels, resorts, apartelles, tourist inns, motels, pension houses, and home stay operators; tourism estate management services, restaurants, shops and department stores, sports and recreational centers, spas, museums and galleries, theme parks, parks, natural sites, historical landmarks, convention centers, and zoos.”