Baguio City's tourism has started welcoming leisure tourists from Region I (Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte) last October 1, 2020. Many have been looking forward to revisiting the summer capital of the Philippines to enjoy its nature, if it isn’t unfamiliarity brought by COVID-19. It is in this regard that we, Sunlight Air invited industry experts from Baguio to discuss with us the details travelers must know about Baguio's reopening, including the new travel procedures, programs and strategies adopted, and how the city can assure the safety of all its incoming tourists.

Held online via Zoom Cloud Meetings on Friday, October 9, 2020, notable speakers such as Baguio Tourism Officer Engr. Aloysius Mapalo and Galvez All-in Travel Director Mr. James Galvez gave their insights in the topic.

Covered in this blogpost are:

  • Baguio Tourism Recovery Plan in the New Normal
  • Step-by-Step of New Travel Process in Baguio
  • Assuring Health and Safety of Visitors in Baguio
  • Current Tourism Scenario in Baguio

Baguio Tourism Recovery Plan in the New Normal

On September 1, 2020, LGUs of Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte signed the Ridge to Reef Travel Corridor agreement. Ridge to Reef derived from Region I and Baguio’s summits and shores, is the first travel bubble formed in the country to secure a slow but safe resumption of tourism activities in CAR and Region I with Baguio as the pilot for domestic tourism in the new normal. It also aims to build smooth interconnectivity among the five LGUs to unify their health and safety regulations and border protocols.

Engr. Mapalo emphasizes, “It’s like a tourism bubble, but more of a travel corridor.” Ridge to Reef corridor plan focuses more on promoting destinations within the corridor and gradually reopening its borders to other regions. Engr. Mapalo divides the travel corridor approach into 3 phases: First, the intra-bubble travel, which is limited to CAR and Region I tourists only; second, the expanded travel corridor, which permits tourists of nearby regions other than Region I, to visit destinations in the travel corridor; and third, the subnational inter-travel wherein tourists from Visayas and Mindanao may experience the travel circuit within the Ridge to Reef corridor with entry points such as Laoag International Airport by air or Baguio or Pangasinan by land.

On September 22, the LGU of Baguio through the assistance of Tourism Promotions Board (TBP) under the Department of Health launched the VIS.I.T.A digital platform—also called the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance, which aims to monitor visitor's real-time activities within the city. Through the platform, tourism stakeholders can easily facilitate the process and limit contact during travels with the platform’s data on visitor’s travel-related information and pre-completed health declaration forms.

As of this writing, only 200 tourists are allowed to visit Baguio per day. A visitor must be a local of Region I, has no underlying health conditions and COVID-19 symptoms, must not be pregnant and must have completed all pre-registration requirements.

Step-by-Step of New Travel Process in Baguio

1. Explore and arrange visit with DOT-accredited tour and travel agents

Baguio only allows visitors who have booked with DOT-accredited accommodation, and tour and travel agents. For full list of DOT-accredited accommodation in Baguio visit https://philippines.travel/safeph.

Also for those without private vehicles, visitors must coordinate with their travel agents or operators for their tour vehicles.

2. Undergo COVID-19 testing

Engr. Mapalo reiterates that an RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen test must be conducted not more than 72 hours (3 days) prior to arrival. The test result is valid only for a 5-day itinerary. Visitors who wish to stay in Baguio for more than 5 days must test again for another RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen. Those who haven't yet tested for the RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen, Baguio has already set up a tourist triage where visitors may take the test with a corresponding fee. But to prevent risks, they are highly encouraged to have themselves tested prior to arrival.

3. Register and create a VIS.I.T.A account

Each person traveling to Baguio must create his or her own account at visita.baguio.gov.ph and prepare digital copies (jpg or pdf) of the requirements: Government-issued ID, school ID or parent's or legal guardian's ID for minors, and a current photo.

4. Using the VIS.I.T.A account, schedule a visit and complete the Health Declaration Questionnaire

Upload the pdf or jpg of the following documents:

  • Confirmed itinerary issued by a tour or travel agent
  • Receipt of pre-booked accommodation              
  • Recent negative COVID-19 test certificate issued by an accredited laboratory

Engr. Mapalo also notes that visitors opting for a test upon arrival must download the consent and test forms to be presented at the triage.

5.Receive an email confirmation and save or print your QTP (QR-codedTourist Pass)

Visitors must save the QTP in their mobile phone. For non-smartphone users, they may print their QTP in a paper, but they must ensure that the code is clear and scannable. For a tutorial video on how to use the VIS.I.T.A platform, visit https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3334 52747862185.

During travel

1. Always bring a digital or printed copy of the QTP and the documentsuploaded the VIS.I.T.A account

These are necessary to ensure entry to border checkpoints, triage, accommodation and itinerary. The QTP will serve as the access pass to all entry and exit points, contact mechanism for visitors and access to one-time completion of health declaration form. Documents such as receipt of pre-booked accommodation, approved itinerary issued by their tour or travel operators and negative COVID-19 test results may also be requested to verify their visit.

2. Stopovers are only allowed in designated pit stops

It is highly encouraged to travel direct from point of origin to destination without stopovers. In unavoidable instances, visitors may stop at designated BLUPISIN (Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur) pit stops such as restaurants and gas stations.

3. Entry access to Baguio is only via Naguilan Road or Palispis (Marcos) Highway

Strictly stopovers are not allowed on these two highways.

Upon arrival

1. Present QTP and documents at the border checkpoint

Visitors must not leave their copies of QTP and documents at the border checkpoint. These documents are required to present to every checkpoint and entry points within the itinerary. Failure to present these copies will be subject to forfeiture of their visit.

2. Proceed to City Tourist Triage at CAP Camp John Hay

Here, visitors are required to present their QTP and answer, in all honesty, all the interview questions to validate their pre-completed health declara-tion form. Once cleared, they may proceed to their pre-booked accommodation.

During guided tour

1. Follow itinerary as assisted by tour guide

DIY tours are not allowed as of the moment. Visitors must coordinate with their travel agents and have their itinerary approved. When visiting tourism sites, they must be accompanied by a tour guide. Any changes in itinerary must be consulted with their tour and travel agent.

During re-entry to point of origin

1. Follow LGU’s re-entry protocols

Visitors must coordinate with their LGU before their trip to ensure smooth flow of re-entry process.

Watch this video for a simplified step-by-step of the new normal process of traveling in Baguio: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=725787471303600

Assuring Health and Safety of Visitors in Baguio

Prior to the reopening of Baguio to leisure tourists, the LGU would have already inspected accommodation and itineraries to ensure that everyone conforms to the regulations they impose. The city requires visitors to book with accommodation and travel and tour operators with DOT-accreditation.

Baguio LGU works hand in hand with the Department of Tourism and local travel and tourism business in ensuring stakeholders’ safety. Mr.Galvez mentions that accommodation providers and local travel agents, tourism operators have been in rigorous training.

Aside from the above-mentioned protocols, it is also important to remem-ber that Baguio prohibits day trips and DIY tours as of the moment. All tours must be accompanied by tour guides and accommodation must be pre-booked in DOT-accredited hotels. Staying in a relative’s or friend’s house during leisure travel is not allowed.

Current Tourism Scenario in Baguio

Four days after the launch of the VIS.I.T.A digital platform, they recorded over 1000 accounts registration mostly from Luzon. Engr. Mapalo mentions that as of the moment, there are 50 bookings from Region I. While visitors haven’t yet reached the city, some locals have been spotted spending leisure weekends in parks. Mr. Galvez also prides the behavior of the locals in terms of the health and safety protocols, emphasizing that they are responsible and disciplined.

Baguio LGU has been eyeing to reopen its borders to other regions by the second week of October, including NCR. They are currently devising additional protocols and planning the expansion of VIS.I.T.A platform in the future. Mr. Galvez says that Baguio is ready to accommodate tourists with its stringent and sustainable protocols.

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