Bo­hol tourism re­opens, with grit and a prayer, for MICE, fam­ily re­unions

- By Ma. Stella F. Ar­naldo Spe­cial to the Busi­ness­mir­ror

M ORE tourism des­ti­na­tions are fi­nally re­open­ing for busi­ness, as stake­hold­ers and lo­cal gov­ern­ment units try to restart their economies.

Start­ing Novem­ber 15, the prov­ince of Bo­hol be­gan ac­cept­ing tourists specif­i­cally at­tend­ing Meet­ings, In­cen­tives, Con­fer­ences and Ex­hi­bi­tions ( MICE) events, and fam­ily gath­er­ings such as wed­dings and re­unions, ac­cord­ing to Ex­ec­u­tive Order 53 signed by the prov­ince’s gover­nor Arthur C. Yap on Novem­ber 13.

Over­all, the move of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment was cheered by its stake­hold­ers, many of whom had to close down due to travel re­stric­tions within the coun­try.

Lo­cal car­ri­ers warmly re­ceived the news by re­launch­ing flights to the prov­ince, which will land vis­i­tors at the newly built Panglao In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Due to the suc­cess of the Philip­pine Travel Ex­change (Phi­tex) held on Panglao Is­land last Septem­ber, Yap said he was look­ing at Bo­hol “as a MICE niche…[which] will help cre­ate more jobs for lo­cals. You have 100 rooms in a ho­tel [ booked for an event], that’s equiv­a­lent to 100 jobs.”

For her part, Tourism Pro­mo­tions Board COO Ma. An­thonette C. Ve­lasco-al­lones said, “The re­open­ing of Bo­hol to MICE events brings to life the pos­i­tive les­sons we have drawn from the hy­brid Phi­tex event last Septem­ber, and cen­tral to that is the value of col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship among stake­hold­ers, so­cial ac­tors, and the gov­ern­ment.”

She added, “We took the courage to stage Phi­tex amid a pan­demic in the hope that it will help write the play­book for MICE. And we con­grat­u­late Gover­nor Yap for fi­nally mak­ing it hap­pen.” Phi­tex was spear­headed by the TPB, the mar­ket­ing arm of the Depart­ment of Tourism.

Aside from Bo­hol, des­ti­na­tions now open to tourists from other parts of the coun­try in­clude Bo­ra­cay Is­land; El Nido and Pa­mal­i­can Is­land in Palawan; Po­lil­lio Is­land in Que­zon; Baguio City; the Ilo­cos Re­gion; Batan­gas; Cavite; as well as the Clark and Su­bic free ports in Cen­tral Lu­zon.

Quar­an­tine sus­pended

TO re­gain Bo­hol’s at­trac­tion as a tourism des­ti­na­tion, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has de­cided to scrap the 14-day quar­an­tine re­quire­ment on vis­i­tors, in­stead only re­quir­ing a neg­a­tive RT-PCR test re­sult “not ear­lier than 72 hours prior to the date of travel to Bo­hol,” ac­cord­ing to EO 53.

Tourists stay­ing for more than five days “must un­dergo a repeat RT-PCR test on the fifth day of their stay.”

To help con­tain any pos­si­ble Covid in­fec­tion brought in by out­side guests, the EO also states, lo­cals who join these MICE events, in­clud­ing wed­dings, re­unions, an­niver­saries, birthdays and sim­i­lar cel­e­bra­tions, “agree to be quar­an­tined for five days and be swabbed for RT-PCR test­ing and that they will only be al­lowed to go home once a neg­a­tive test re­sult is re­leased.”

Tourists are asked to regis­ter at­

Leeds Trompeta, gen­eral man­ager of Amorita Re­sort, told the Busi­ness­mir­ror, “We wel­come this devel­op­ment, and with our safety pro­to­cols in place we are look­ing for­ward to wel­come guests from Manila.”

He added, “The re­quire­ment, how­ever, of a min­i­mum six per­sons needs care­ful re­assess­ment since with the global pan­demic, the MICE seg­ment has piv­oted to other plat­forms and most cor­po­rate ac­counts have de­cided to de­fer group travel of their as­so­ciates and ex­ec­u­tives. Al­though we do get queries for so­cial events like wed­dings, most of these are for next year on a very ten­ta­tive reser­va­tion.”

He said, “We be­lieve that FIT [free in­de­pen­dent travel] should be given equal at­ten­tion with the proper health and safety pro­to­cols in place to cal­i­brate the re­vival of tourism in Bo­hol. Like­wise our des­ti­na­tion has the unique ad­van­tage of hav­ing a new in­ter­na­tional air­port that is just five min­utes away from our re­sort and Alona Beach.”

Car­ri­ers re­turn to Bo­hol

THE an­nounce­ment of the Bo­hol LGU was the spark needed for car­ri­ers to re­new their ties to the prov­ince.

Pi­o­neer­ing flag car­rier Philip­pine Air­lines said it sup­ports the gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign to re­store and re­ju­ve­nate do­mes­tic tourism. It re­sumes its com­mer­cial flights be­tween Manila and Bo­hol be­gin­ning Novem­ber 22 with round-trip flights ev­ery Wed­nes­day, Fri­day and Sun­day.

Pas­sen­gers need to show a con­firmed book­ing at a Dot-ac­cred­ited ho­tel be­fore de­par­ture. They are also sup­posed to book with only ac­cred­ited tour op­er­a­tors and guides, who will bring them on itin­er­ar­ies pre-ap­proved by the LGU.

For its part, Ai­ra­sia Philip­pines is of­fer­ing 50- per­cent off on air­fare from Manila to Bo­hol be­gin­ning De­cem­ber 1. In a news state­ment, Ai­ra­sia Philip­pines CEO Ricky Isla said, “We are pleased to be able to reopen our ser­vices to and from Bo­hol for both es­sen­tial and leisure trav­el­ers. We hope that the re­sump­tion of con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween both re­gions will fur­ther as­sist lo­cal busi­nesses and en­ter­prises in Bo­hol. Ai­ra­sia will con­tinue to sup­port the na­tional and lo­cal gov­ern­ments in their ef­forts to jump­start the travel and tourism in­dus­tries in the Philip­pines.”

Cebu Pa­cific is like­wise of­fer­ing a pro­mo­tional air­fare of P99 from Manila to Bo­hol for travel in July-au­gust 2021.

In 2019 visi­tor ar­rivals in Bo­hol reached 1.58 mil­lion, a 5.6-per­cent in­crease from 2018. Of to­tal ar­rivals last year, 854,853 were do­mes­tic tourists, and 727,051 for­eign tourists, as per data pro­vided by the Depart­ment of Tourism Cen­tral Visayas re­gional of­fice.

DOT thanks Red Cross

MEAN­WHILE, the DOT ex­pressed its grat­i­tude to the Philip­pine Red Cross (PRC), led by Sen. Richard J. Gor­don, for re­duc­ing the cost of its RT-PCR test to P3,300.

(See, “Red Cross to cut Covid test price to help boost tourism,” in the Busi­ness­mir­ror, Novem­ber 19, 2020.)

Tourism Sec­re­tary Ber­nadette Ro­mulo Puyat has ac­tively pushed for a price cap on anti­gen and RTPCR tests to en­cour­age do­mes­tic travel and help re­store liveli­hood in tourism ar­eas. Many tourist des­ti­na­tions have opened up to vis­i­tors, but the high cost of test­ing re­mains a de­ter­rent.

“Greater ac­cess and af­ford­abil­ity of the Covid tests will mean more Filipinos can re­turn to their home­towns, un­der­take travel for leisure, busi­ness, health, ed­u­ca­tion or MICE, and visit fam­ily and friends,” she said in a news state­ment.

The RT-PCR test, cur­rently the most ac­cu­rate in de­ter­min­ing the pres­ence of novel coro­n­avirus in the body, costs any­where from P4,000 to P6,500, de­pend­ing on the med­i­cal fa­cil­ity and quick­ness of re­sults.

The DOT chief, how­ever, called on trav­el­ers to be re­spon­si­ble and keep tourism safe by com­ply­ing with health and safety pro­to­cols im­posed by the In­ter-agency Task Force on the Man­age­ment of Emerg­ing In­fec­tious Dis­eases and LGUS of the tourism des­ti­na­tions they are vis­it­ing.

 ?? RO­MAN SKORZUS | DREAMSTIME.COM ?? BAL­I­CASAG, a ma­rine sanc­tu­ary off the coast of Panglao Is­land, Bo­hol
RO­MAN SKORZUS | DREAMSTIME.COM BAL­I­CASAG, a ma­rine sanc­tu­ary off the coast of Panglao Is­land, Bo­hol
 ?? MICHAEL ED­WARDS | DREAMSTIME.COM ?? LIBAONG Beach on Panglao Is­land, Bo­hol

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