Tightened entry rules derail Baguio’s tourism rebound

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Baguio City’s hopes for a rebound in its tourism industry were dashed as tourist arrivals dipped anew due to tightened entry protocols particularly the return of the testing requirement and the ban on visitors from the National Capital Region and nearby provinces or the NCR Plus bubble.

City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said tourist arrivals plummeted after the city reimposed testing as entry requirement last March 19.

“When we brought back the test requirement, many who are registered did not come anymore. Last Saturday, 1,149 out of 5,240 or 22 percent of those who registered arrived.  Almost 80 percent ang hindi dumating,” he said.

“Comparing it to the previous Saturday when there were no test requirements, 2,932 out of 6,420 or 46 percent of those who registered arrived,” he added.

He said they expect further downtrend this Holy Week with the imposition of entry restrictions on tourists from the NCR plus areas who comprise 50 percent of the registrants.

“It’s expected that all registrants from NCR and parts of Regions 3 and 4A or around 50 percent of the total registrants will already not come.  Then, remove the percentage of non-arrivals as seen from past data which is 46 percent,” he said.

“Take for example starting March 26 to Holy Week, including Easter (April 4), the total number of registrants is 12,437. Remove 50 percent of that, we have 6,219.  If only 46 percent will arrive from what’s left, we can expect only 2,861 for the next 10 days.  That is still a conservative estimate which means it can still be less,” Mapalo said.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the testing requirement was reimposed, albeit lessened in cost, to maintain infection control in face of the surge in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and the threat of the more infectious variants.

On the NCR Plus restriction, he said the city had to make the necessary adjustments and abide by Resolution No.104 of the Inter-Agency Task Force even if it will deal a big impact on its bid to resurrect the tourism industry.

“This is one way of controlling mobility which we had to do because our cases went up by as much as 100 percent in the past weeks,” the mayor said as he appealed for understanding from residents and tourists affected by the changes in protocols.

“As we all know, we are trying to strike a balance between health and economy.  Rules can change anytime a s circumstances call for it.  We can only hope for your continued understanding and cooperation as we continue to surmount the challenges of this pandemic,” he said.

By Aileen P. Refuerzo
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis

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