The festive event was marked by a unique vertical concert – the performances by the Loboc Children’s Choir, Loboc Ambassador Band and Kasing SiningTeatro Bol-anon Ensemble were viewed by the delegates from their respective balconies.
PANGLAO ISLAND – Poised for reopening tourism, and leading the way towards safe travel in the Philippines in the new normal, the island paradise of Panglao pilots its recalibrated tourism program as it plays host to the hybrid edition of Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2020, organized by the Tourism Promotions Board.
“Bohol stands proud to have been chosen to host PHITEX 2020,” asserts Bohol Governor Arthur Yap in his address at the PHITEX opening ceremony. “We are charting our course and trying our best to balance showcasing the beauty and the bounty of our waters and land as well as paying homage to our culture of faith, patriotism, and the creative arts alongside the need to ensure the safety of our visitors and our constituents.”
The Bohol provincial government is priming Panglao as a safe travel destination, touting the island as a travel bubble, a travel circuit with low or zero incidence of COVID-19. Bohol also boasts of an international airport, a coastal spotting system called Kalasag ni Dagohoy which monitors traffic in and out of the islands, and access to two COVID-testing facilities, including a new PCR testing laboratory in Tagbilaran City.
Bohol has instituted the Ultimate Bohol Experience (UBE) Seal as a stamp of validation for tourism establishments’ adherence to health, safety and sanitation protocols conceptualized by members of the Bohol Association of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants along with the Provincial Tourism Council based on DOT guidelines and local ordinance. This ensures that the tourism industry workers and establishments in the new normal are anti-COVID compliant, including a system for contact tracing, limited carrying capacity, and contactless transactions.
The seal is also geared towards sustainable tourism, covering compliance with environmental standards, proper waste management and sewage treatment, reduced carbon footprint, and use of eco-friendly technology.
The province has also rolled out contact-tracing cards which requires QR code scanning at the point of entry for various locators. The companion app also facilitates airport arrivals; checking in and out of hotels and facilities; booking transportation, tours and day trips; making reservations and even purchasing souvenirs.
In his speech, Yap also noted the evolution of tourism in the new normal.
“We lean towards slower tourism to make us appreciate the fragility, the beauty, and the interdependence of our ecosystem. And a decisive tourism because there can be no doubt that we have to make a clear stand on sustainability, care, and the resiliency of our world,” he said.
Some well-known Bohol travel experiences have already been recalibrated for compliance to the new normal, including the countryside tour, which includes the relaxing Loboc River cruise, the Bilar Man-made Forest with its lush green canopies, and the world-famous Chocolate Hills.
Ocean lovers can go for Bohol’s famed sea tours: dolphin watching, island-hopping and diving, which were already a major draw for tourism pre-pandemic.
With the new normal, Bohol is also launching new itineraries, such as the Heritage and Arts tour and the Nature and Crafts tour, both of which aim to promote local craftsmanship and ingenuity, at the same time boosting local economy.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat reiterated that Panglao, Bohol is an ideal destination and acknowledged the value of partnership with local government units and the private sector.
“We are grateful for the collaboration and support of Gov. Arthur Yap, the provincial government of Bohol, and our private sector partners who have put in so much efforts in recalibrating their tourism products, and ensuring adherence to our issued new normal safety, health and sanitation protocols,” she said.
Bohol is eyeing the last quarter of 2020 for reopening, although Yap noted this is a moving target. “Only when we can be sure that we can safeguard the health of the visitors and locals alike, will we attempt to open up tourism in measured steps, one day at a time,” Yap concluded.