The country’s summer capital remains cautious in letting local tourists in, despite its scheduled reopening to guests from parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, on Oct. 23.
Based on the official data from the Baguio City Tourism Office, only 15 of the 2,842 total individual registrations from the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) as of Oct. 18 have been approved, which also accounts to the total actual travels by visitors from Region 1.
Engineer Aloysius “Alec” Mapalo, Baguio’s tourism officer, said there are still 528 total pending travel requests on the said date coming from other provinces even outside Luzon and three from the United States.
But based on the Ridge to Reef Travel Corridor between Baguio and Region 1 provinces, only guests from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, and La Union were being prioritized to enter the City of Pines.
Despite the growing visitor requests, Mayor Benjamin Magalong told the Manila Bulletin in an interview that “they are not in a hurry” even with the reopening of the tourism industry, especially in terms of the city’s carrying capacity.
“We will start with 200 [visitors]. Siguro kapag nakita namin after three days ma-reach namin yung 200 [visitors cap] na manageable pala, okay sige magdagdag tayo ng additional 100,” he said.
(We will start with 200 [visitors]. If, for example, after three days we were able to manage the 200 [visitors cap], then, we can add another 100.)
Magalong also noted that tourists who plan to go to the city need not to directly book through travel agents as opposed to the earlier plans announced.
This means that tourists may book directly to Baguio hotels or accommodation establishments accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT), even for staycation. But city tours will still have to be arranged with tour operators in Baguio. Hence, “do it yourself” (DIY) travels are still prohibited in the new normal.
Asked about the changes made in the initial requirements in the travel corridor plan, he said: “Very stringent kasi [yung protocols noong una] kaya nadidiscourage tuloy yung mga turista na umakyat.”
A negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) result conducted within 72-hours prior to travel still has to be presented prior to border entry.
Tourists are only allowed to stay in Baguio for five days. Once the period of stay lapsed, a confirmatory test swab will be done.
Christmas shows to go virtual
As one of the most in-demand travel destinations especially during the holiday season, the Baguio local chief executive is, however, considering making some of its popular shows to be staged virtually.
Every December, Baguio wows tourists with its colorful lantern parade, fireworks display, and musical presentations.
Known for its nightlife, tourists would often gather at the famed Session Road, Harrison Road, and Burnham Park to dine, shop at the open-air thrift shops, and basically experience the city’s cold breeze.
But Magalong said: “Gagawin namin na mga virtual na shows siguro. Kung merong mga gagawin kami doon sa Burnham Park very limited lang yung number. Iyon ang mga tinitingnan namin na activities just to encourage people to go out.”
(Maybe we will make the shows virtual. If we will showcase something at the Burnham Park, that would be only those that would generate a limited number of visitors. We are currently exploring those activities just to encourage people to go out.)
The mayor also said he will temporarily ban the conduct of Christmas parties at Baguio’s government offices.
Based on data from the Baguio City Health Service Office (HSO), the city has 1,703 total confirmed cases as of Oct. 19, of which 605 are active cases.
The University of the Philippines OCTA Research Team had also identified Baguio City as “high-risk” for COVID-19 infections due to an increased number of cases per day and an alarming hospital occupancy rate in the past two weeks.
But the city’s public information office said “there is nothing to worry” as the “control systems are in place.”
“We continue to have a high contact tracing efficiency ratio. We are able to locate other infected persons so it is understandable that the number of cases will increase.”