Pia to DOT: finalize safety guidelines for tourism sector

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is calling for a detailed government action plan to help the country’s tourism sector adapt to the “new normal” following the disruption caused by COVID-19.

During the second day of the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Wednesday (May 20), the senator urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to come up with a clear set of guidelines for the tourism industry, which should be in line with national and global health standards.

“The reality is, in order to get travelers and tourists to have confidence in our country, our health policies on COVID-related exposures should be consistent with what is set worldwide,” Cayetano said.

The senator also asked the DOT to start finalizing the guidelines for local travels. She said any best practices we intend to replicate from other countries should be properly evaluated to make sure they are effective and suitable in the Philippine context.

“There are practices out there that may be best for one country but not necessarily for ours. So we would like to know very specifically where any recommendation would come from so that we can assess. I know the pressure for our tourism sector to open up is there. I offer my support, but we also want to ensure that we keep safety in mind,” Cayetano noted.

“Maybe [the DOT] can identify the safe activities to do [in particular tourist destinations]. You may come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes, whether it’s 60 or 180 days from now, we can be more ready and we don’t have to debate on it anymore,” she added.

As a response, DOT Undersecretary Art Boncato Jr. said the agency is set to roll out “omnibus revised tourism standards anchored on new normal standards, as espoused by the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, and also anchored on best practices all around the world.”

This covers areas of accommodation, tourist transport, restaurants, hotels, and tour guides, among others. The common themes expected to be included in the standards are protocols on social distancing, deep sanitation, protective gear, as well as investments of tourism stakeholders in health plans both for their employees and their guests.

In terms of accommodation, the DOT said it plans to mandate a maximum of double occupancy for all hotels. Restaurants, meanwhile, will be mandated to have a 50-percent occupancy for dine-in operations, Usec. Boncato said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano to DOT: “Come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes [to open up tourism], we will be ready.”
File photo (2019): Senator Pia S. Cayetano meets with displaced workers of Boracay following the 6-month rehabilitation of the island, considered as the top draw of Philippine tourism.

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