Readying up for tourism

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A mixed feeling of anxiety and hopefulness couldn’t be helped these days. Anxiety, because as we begin re-opening tourism — already announced to commence by September 21 — there’s a growing fear that safety concerns would necessarily deepen even more. Hopefulness, because, let’s face it, business and jobs just have to deserve more than the bit-by-bit revival. We just have to get back what have been lost.

Our present-day afflictions remain are still embedded in the community consciousness, reason why Mayor Benjie had to emphasize in no uncertain terms the need to keep health protocol practices very much in place. This pandemic has wrought havoc in our everyday life since the quarantine restrictions were imposed just five months back. Jobs and livelihood access have been severely affected, no doubt as a result of business closures effected by safety-influenced lockdowns.

Amid the continuing pandemic threat, it shouldn’t be a surprise that health and safety concerns become a more paramount imperative, whenever economic needs are highlighted. Amid the continuing upward climb of infection cases, it shouldn’t be much of choice for anyone, infected or not, aware or not, for life to take precedence over any other imperative. So, why not simply coast along, drift along, and wait it out for the virus to dissipate? Why risk it out, as the more vitriolic among us have been shrilly calling for in rising decibels?

Seemingly, that is not as simple as it can ever be. Life of course is vital. But livelihood is just as a basic need, the very the right to live it out through opportunities opened up, isn’t it? What is life, without the opportunity to live, not just for oneself, but for loved ones as well? Couldn’t there be a balance to keep anyone out of harm’s way, even as access to jobs and livelihood are made available to those fit to work?

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This is what besets tourism planners and managers, precisely how to bring about some kind of a rebound effective enough to jump-start tourism in our part of the woods, without having to unduly risk upsurge of viral infections that continue to afflict our communities. Under ordinary times, any ordinary virus could have simply petered out in a matter of time. But, here we are, five months since the outbreak, and the end of a long dark tunnel hasn’t been there, with nary a glimmer of light.

Plans and programs have in fact been crafted, well enough for caring national agencies to cascade funding support. Just about three weeks ago, a tourism readiness plan came about, emerging from consultations between stakeholders and health officials.

The consensus was clear, crystal clear: position Baguio as a well-equipped locality capable to manage tourist re-entry under severely defined health protocols. The buzzwords were simple: safely, slowly, steadily. Nothing could have accentuated the kind of situation that should emphasize how we’ll handle tourism.

Simply stated, fostering safety as a government responsibility will ensure that all prescribed health protocols, from border points to triage to quarantine facilities to treatment practices are very much in place and are complied to the letter. Fostering slow and steady progression will make certain that when an unlikely happenstance takes place — an unusual upsurge — again the government will not mince any effort in stepping back bit by bit to manage the case ascent back to well-handled situations.

In recent days, we’ve experienced the effect of localizing tourism. Public parks and other open spaces were opened up for local visits and sight-seeing, precisely to begin the process of instilling public appreciation of what have been inherent our prime assets. Family picnics have been held in these places, limited gatherings have been allowed, access in public places has been opened up.

Agreements have also been forged among local governments of Baguio and its Ilocos counterparts for local tourist exchanges that can be managed from point to point, thus reviving regional tourism for places that have low to zero-risk of pandemic cases. Of course, there’s no denying that plans are only as good as these are well-executed from end to end. How well the coordination will work will surely determine how well the plans will be carried out.

For now, it becomes a foremost concern that nothing is spared to chance for things to get going. The times are toughening, with no vaccine yet at hand. Continuous interaction among the tourism managers across our boundaries is a desired activity, precisely because an effacing tourist exchange needs on-hand management through and through.

Surely, safety — from those coming in for a taste of what Baguio is now, and from those receiving visitors — will always be a moment-by-moment concern. Tourists, compatriots no less, need to be assured that Baguio is the safe city where health practices are enforced to the last word. Our local residents have to be stripped of worries too when interacting with visitors, convinced that every safe measure is being sternly followed.

We are safe. We are ready. And we’re all of one mind in reviving an economy grounded by the pandemic, in getting back on our feet to live a life blessed with the abundance of opportunities to seize.

It’s really all about life — what we save and protect and what we can do to make it worth working for. Nothing less should be heeded.

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