MANILA - The Department of Tourism is preparing to jumpstart domestic tourism under strict protocols when the country transitions to a modified general community quarantine.
This, as the tourism industry has taken heavy losses because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted travel restrictions across the globe.
"We are all looking first at domestic tourism. Since there’s no foreign travel outside coming in so its first domestic tourism. You start first with your municipality, within your city, within your province. When it is safe, we can travel all around the country. When you can go inter-island. We're looking at ASEAN (Southeast Asia) first," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
On ANC's Headstart, Puyat said they still need to get the confidence of tourists on traveling again and ensure that tourist spots are safe.
"The last thing we want [is] magkaroon ng outbreak sa isang tourist spot kaya unti-untiin muna," she said.
(The last thing we want is to have an outbreak in a tourist spot that's why we have to do this gradually.)
She said the department has been in contact with stakeholders discussing safety protocols since last month.
"Now when people travel, they not only look at if the place is beautiful. They now look at safety and sanitation. As early as a month ago, we've been discussing thoroughly pages and pages of the safety protocols based on the best practices around the world, the WHO (World Health Organization), and the DOH (Department of Health)," Puyat said.
Metro Manila, a large part of Central Luzon and Laguna province are under modified enhanced community quarantine until May 31 to slow down the spread of the virus. The cities of Cebu and Mandaue are under ECQ.
The rest of the country, meanwhile, is under general community quarantine (GCQ).
"With GCQ, people can already travel but this is only for essential businesses. But we in the tourism industry, when I talked to the stakeholders, we're fine with that because we want it to be slow and but sure," she said.
This, she said, will give them time to coordinate with local government units and ensure that hotels have the proper protocols.
"Even if we all have the safety protocols, mas importante 'yung kausap mo 'yung local government on how they will be able to enforce the new normal," she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has infected 4,904,413 people globally, including 323,412 deaths as of May 21, according to the World Health Organization. The pandemic has forced many countries to implement quarantine measures.
"We are very lucky because we have 7,641 islands. Even if let’s say there is still a fear of flying, you can go to so many places around the country by land," she said.
After the pandemic, she sees people, particularly the millennials traveling first by land to nearby tourist destinations.
She also noted that profit is not the priority of the private sector and the local government.
"We want it to be safe for our tourists. We are already preparing everybody because we want to jumpstart. Although we want it to be slow but sure, gusto nating magkatrabaho na ang ating mga stakeholders kahit pakonti-konti (we want our stakeholders to have their jobs gradually)," she said.
The department has waived accreditation and participation fees to provide relief to its stakeholders. It has also referred them to the Department of Budget and Management and the LandBank of the Philippines for low interest loans, she said.
"We're looking for ways that they are able to continue their businesses," she said.