Webinar Summary: Reopening of Cebu Tourism and Assuring Travelers’ Safety

For the past years, Cebu has witnessed an influx of both domestic and international tourists. Central Visayas has recorded 4.3 million tourists in 2019, with Cebu municipalities such as Cebu City (2.86 million) and Lapu-Lapu City (1.83 million) occupying the first and second spots of the region’s top visited destinations. The province has performed well in terms of tourism and economy in 2019, but 2020 has performed differently, presenting lower statistics than what was expected due to the pandemic. It is only last July 31, 2020 that the province resumed its tourism activities and welcomed local tourists and residents. Since then, the province has been preparing for the safe return of domestic and international tourists. Various protocols on health and safety, tourism recovery plans and programs have been carried out.

From last week’s webinar, guest speakers Ms. Alice Queblatin (Cebu City Tourism Council Commissioner and Southwind Travel and Tours Managing Director), Ms. Sunshine Lim (Lapu-Lapu City Tourism, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commissioner), and Ms. Aines Librodo (GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation Head for Airline Marketing and Tourism Development) shared their insights on the reopening of Cebu tourism, particularly in the municipalities of Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City.

Covered in this blog are:

● Cebu Tourism Recovery Plan

● Travel Requirements

● Assuring Health and Safety

● Current Tourism Scenario

Cebu Tourism Recovery Plan

In April, the province of Cebu created a task force to usher the new normal in all its municipalities. The task force involved different departments and sectors including travel and tourism industries to devise unified plans and strategies to mitigate the crisis and recover its tourism and economy. Later in July, Cebu LGU launched its tourism portal in an effort to revive its tourism while ensuring everyone’s safety. Tour packages, tourism rules and regulations and other announcements can be found in the said portal at https://discover.cebu.gov.ph/.

According to Ms. Lim of Lapu-Lapu City, the recovery plan focuses on different target markets segmented into phases: First phase opens the city’s tourism sites to residents and local tourists from neighboring cities and municipalities of Lapu-Lapu City; second phase opens to tourists from Central Visayas with whom Lapu-Lapu City shares regional affinity such as Siquijor, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Occidental; third phase opens to the whole Visayas region; fourth phase to areas in the country under the new normal; and fifth phase to international tourists, initially from the ASEAN and western countries. Lapu-Lapu City’s tourism aims to deliver redefined experiences without compromising the safety of tourists. Tourism programs focus on nature-enriched experiences and highlight the rich heritage of the city in areas such as culture, arts, food, health and wellness, nature, and education.

For Cebu City, Ms. Queblatin mentioned that recovery plans are yet to be finalized. The Cebu City Tourism Council, together with all its stakeholders and different tourism sectors, is currently devising protocols, tour activities, and other programs to gradually recover tourism and economy. Plans will mainly focus on the safety of visitors and residents. The Council assures travelers that they are soon launching their travel program.

Travel Requirements

While the new normal travel process may not be identified as of the moment, Ms. Lim and Ms. Queblatin mentioned that the following are essential to determine the entry of tourists:

Lapu-Lapu City

1. Negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to arrival

2. Confirmed booking in DOT-accredited accommodation establishment

For a list of DOT-accredited accommodation, visit https://philippines.travel/safeph.

3. Completed health declaration form prior to booking or reservation

Cebu City

1. Negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to arrival

2. Confirmed booking in DOT-accredited accommodation establishment

For a list of DOT-accredited accommodation, visit https://philippines.travel/safeph.

3. Completed health declaration form prior to booking or reservation

4. Travel authority

Assuring Health and Safety

The province has created a task force to ensure that hotels and other tourism-related establishments conform to the required health and safety protocols. Cebu has also established a tourism portal to ensure that tourism activities are implemented under strict observance of safety protocols as well as control influx of tourists. In Lapu-Lapu City, 249 hotel and resort workers have been tested with RT-PCR in October. Ms. Lim mentioned that all tourism-related establishments must earn the Certificate of Compliance with the health and safety guidelines imposed by the IATF, DOT and DOH to be allowed to operate. Every hotel or accommodation establishment must have its own isolation facility in case of suspected Covid-19 patients, while all service personnel must always follow sanitation procedures and wear PPEs. The city has also disseminated safety reminders all over the city and emergency hotline numbers which tourists can contact for their travel and Covid-related concerns. Lapu-Lapu City’s Tourism, Historical, and Cultural Affairs (LLC-TCHAC) and City Health have already inspected accommodation establishments and found that most establishments have adopted their own advanced safety protocols aside from the standard. Ms. Lim also emphasized that they have been eyeing to open a tourism information desk at Mactan Cebu International Airport and in Olango to accommodate and aid arriving tourists on the information they need before reaching the city.

According to Ms. Queblatin, they are also setting up a contact tracing app which will secure travelers of their safety while in the city. The Cebu City Tourism Council plans to collate all the information that will be essential for all the city’s future visitors. The website also includes a list of opened tourism sites, updates and other recommended establishments that have passed the seal of Covid-free housekeeping, approved by the IATF, DOT and the City of Cebu.

To further the safety of all tourists especially visiting Cebu and other destinations in Central Visayas, Cebu Mactan International Airport has also adopted its own measures to ensure the safety of arriving and departing tourists. Starting later in November 2020, the DOTr’s TRAZE app system will be implemented to easily monitor tourists’ activities. Ms. Librodo mentioned that the airport has also adopted the following protocols or utilized the following equipment:

● Disinfecting foot baths placed at all terminal entrances

● Three-sided plexiglass screens at all check-in counters

● Social distancing at check-in areas, self-service kiosks, immigration counters, pre-departure waiting areas, boarding process, f&b outlets, inside airport taxis, etc.

● QR-code based menus in F&B outlets

● Contactless payments in F&B outlets

● Contactless sanitizers and medical-grade soaps all over the airport

● Safety reminders and terminal procedures highlighted through signages

● Thermal cameras in departure and arrival areas

● Contactless self check-in kiosks

● Contactless boarding pass verification scanners

● Virtual helpdesks deployed at all information counters

● Covid testing facility

With these, Cebu Mactan International Airport aims to assure tourists of their safety so they can confidently proceed to their destinations especially the coming Cebu nationwide tourists.

Current Tourism Scenario

On October 12, the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office uploaded a list of 52 hotels and tourism-related establishments that have been inspected and allowed to resume operations. Tourism activities such as diving, and island hopping have also reopened in Olango Island and Lapu-Lapu City but only to local tourists or residents of Cebu province. In Lapu-Lapu City, some restaurants, accommodation establishments and tourism sites have reopened. While many tourism-related establishments and sites are not yet open in the city, they have been renovating establishments, training and rescaling the community in preparation for their reopening. Cebu City, on the other hand, has been into several meetings and planning. Ms. Queblatin said that all the stakeholders, including the different sectors, such as tour operators, restaurants and accommodation are currently doing their best together, apprehending plans on how the city can move forward. The city has also been promoting staycations and accommodating local tourists and residents in open destinations such as Magellan’s Cross, Basilica del Sto. Nino and other churches. These places have already been inspected and proven to be in strict compliance with all the safety standards.

The different municipalities are all working hard to implement their tourism recovery plans and programs to assure all tourists of their safety. With the constant improvement of municipalities in terms of new normal preparedness, domestic tourists can anticipate Cebu’s nationwide reopening by next year. Ms. Queblatin mentioned that once Cebu City’s recovery plans and programs have been finalized, these will be uploaded in their official tourism website together with the list of recommended experiences. She also said that the city eyes to reopen its domestic tourism to its full force by January 1, 2020.

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