Baguio eyes September reopening for tourists

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2020 09:48 AM | Updated as of Jun 23 2020 02:19 PM

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MANILA — Baguio, famed for its cool weather, will re-brand itself as a vacation spot safe from the coronavirus pandemic and might open to tourists in September, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said Tuesday.

The mountain city will re-open its tourism if it avoids a second wave of COVID-19 cases and if "things normalize" in neighboring Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Region 4, he said.

Before the coronavirus lockdown in March, Baguio drew some 500,000 tourists at crowd-drawing events like its Panagbenga flower festival.

The city will accept only a tenth of this number when it re-opens and might gradually accept more holidaymakers once local authorities "learn the dynamics," said Magalong.

"When we open up, it's just like applying for a visa. That's what we're doing right now with returning Baguio residents, you have to apply for a 'visa', get a schedule," he said.

Baguio will be re-branded as a "safe vacation spot" by requiring visitors to go through a checkpoint and 2 levels of medical triage, he said.

HELP FOR BUSINESSES

The city is planning tourism programs by "the end of the year" and an initial P100-million stimulus package, 80 percent of which will go to micro enterprises and 20 percent to small businesses, Magalong said.

Micro businesses have an asset size of up to P3 million while small businesses have an asset size of up to P15 million, according to the trade department's website.

Baguio will seek the agency's help to select the beneficiaries of the stimulus package. A similar aid program in the early 2000s failed to yield returns for the city because most of the beneficiaries had "political connections", he said.

The city government will also "expose them (residents) to other types of businesses that will thrive during the pandemic," said Magalong.

These include strawberry and flower farming, textile manufacturing, weaving and handicraft, he said.