Tourism, an economic sector that bore the brunt of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, is determined to bounce back better and quicker on the back of intensified vaccination of its frontliners.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said efforts to save the sector continue through coordinated push from the private sector, with assistance from the national government, in terms of amelioration packages, loans and vaccination of tourism frontliners.
“Nonetheless, the volatility of the situation was highlighted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, due to the new variants. This resulted in the re-imposition of strict quarantine measures in many parts of the country. Yes, this is a set back in our recovery efforts, but I strongly believe that this is only temporary,” she said.
“Over the last several months, we’ve laid the groundwork for recovery in the whole country, with the continued support of the national and local governments, as well as private stakeholders, coupled with the increasing rate of vaccinations. We are improving our chances for the full revitalization of the tourism industry,”Puyat said.
“The key to achieving all our targets, is through the forging of strong partnerships, and everyone reaching for the same lofty goal,” she said.
Taking a multi-sectoral approach, the Tourism Response and Recovery Plan outlines various measures to help affected sectors and lays the groundwork for a better normal”•that is creating a stronger, more resilient and more sustainable tourism industry. The TRRP serves as the sector’s blueprint for recovery.
“Another strategy to prepare our stakeholders, workers and partners in the tourism industry for the better normal was to use this downtime in tourism activity to rescale upskill and retool them. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we continue to provide training programs for our partner tourism enterprises and workers, and improving the quality of their services operating procedures, and tourism products,” Puyat said.
To keep tourism micro, small and medium enterprises afloat, the DOT forged a partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry for the immediate implementation of the Cares for Travel program”•which stands for COVID-19 assistance to restart enterprises, for the tourism rehabilitation and vitalization of enterprises and livelihood.
Launched on Oct. 12, 2020, the program provides recipients access to zero interest, no collateral loans with a loan term period of up to 4 years, including a corresponding grace period of up to 2 years. Under the Bayanihan 2 Act, P6 billion was allocated for working capital loans from the DTI’s Small Business Corp.
“Apart from our push to promote health and safety in our tourism destinations, through the implementation of strict guidelines, another critical factor is getting everyone in the tourism industry vaccinated. The vaccination of the tourism workforce, not only protects them. It also protects and reassures tourists that travel can be safe, yet fun. We are in close coordination with Secretary Charlie Galvez and Secretary Vince Dizon, and all the different LGUs to make sure that all tourism frontliners are vaccinated,” Puyat said.
More than 70 percent of tourism frontliners in Metro Manila working in DOT-accredited quarantine facilities, isolation facilities, multiple-use hotels and staycation hotels, under the A1 and A4 vaccination groups were vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Aug. 9, 2021.
Based on the data submitted by 455 DOT-accredited accommodation establishments, about 19,315 of 26,745 tourism frontliners from the 16 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila received jabs.
Across island destinations, 9,240 tourism workers received their full doses. They included 9,920 in Bohol, 6,500 in Boracay, 7,500 in Palawan and 1,000 fully-vaccinated workers in Pampanga.
“The vaccination of tourism workers is a necessary step to keep them protected while doing their duty in the frontlines. These figures are of high importance especially with the threat of the Delta variant,” Puyat said.
The DOT, through its NCR office, also facilitated the vaccination of workers in DOT-accredited restaurants. As of Aug. 9, 1,245 of the 4,479 workers in the list submitted by 202 restaurants in Metro Manila were vaccinated.
“With the arrival of more vaccines, the DOT looks forward to the vaccination of those employed in tourism support services as well, such as tricycle drivers, massage therapists and porters, among others,” Puyat said.