Baguio now open to tourists but few arrivals, so far

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong officially launched the Ridge to Reef tourism corridor last week and said that visitors from the Ilocos region were welcome starting Thursday, October 1, but there have been few guests in the city, so far.

Two tourists were supposed to have arrived on Friday, October 2. “First two Baguio ‘visitas (visitors)’ will arrive today from Region 1. Welcome to Baguio, your safe haven,” Baguio tourist officer Alec Mapalo wrote in his FaceBook wall Friday. 

During a press briefing on Friday, Magalong said 489 registrants have been tallied in Baguio’s Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) system.

However, only 66 have put forth travel requests, with 39 coming from Region 1, 18 from the National Capital Region (NCR), and the remaining 9 from other regions.

As the tourism corridor only connects Baguio to Region 1 provinces – Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan – the city will only see 39 visitors.

“Even though we launched the Ridge to Reef already, we don’t expect any tourists in the coming days,” Magalong said.

According to the mayor, the earliest registered trips with the VISITA system would see the first arrival of a bigger number of tourists on October 11.

The number of tourists is also far from reaching the city’s cap of 200 tourists per day.

However, Magalong said the city is expecting more registrations and travel requests to come as the tourism corridor remains open.

At the same time, the city is also capable of changing its tourist limits depending on the data on the ground.

Tourists are already allowed in the city provided they are registered with VISITA and strictly follow tour itineraries from accredited tour guides and systems.

The Ridge to Reef tourism bubble connects Baguio City with La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte (LUPISIN). It was officially launched last September 22 at the Baguio Convention Center in the presence of  Magalong, the governors of the LUPISIN provinces, and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

Hesitation?

The surge in COVID-19 cases in the city may have added to the hesitation of tourists. As of Friday, the city had reached the 1,000-mark in COVID-19 cases. Most of the cases last week came from Slaughterhouse, Lower City Camp, and Lower Lourdes Subdivision.  

The mayor said the outbreak in the 3 barangays which triggered the spike was not caused by random or unidentified cases but tracked contacts of current cases in contact tracing activities.

"We don't expect the outbreak to affect our tourism plan. After all, we know where the cases are coming from and containment measures had been done before their diagnosis came," Magalong said.

The Baguio local government will require a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result for all travelers entering the city beginning October 3.

The mayor said a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or rapid antigen test is an additional safety measure to the online registration and triage requirements to ensure travelers entering Baguio are COVID-free.

The following travelers will have to submit themselves for COVID-19 diagnostic testing:

  • Government officials and government frontline personnel who are not assigned to the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba and Tublay (BLISTT) area
  • Duly authorized humanitarian assistance actors and persons traveling for humanitarian or medical reasons and their companions
  • Persons with indispensable or work-related purposes
  • Persons with one-time transactions

For the above sectors, RT-PCR or rapid antigen tests should be conducted within 72 hours before they enter the city, or they should submit themselves for testing at the Central Triage and Testing Center at the Baguio Convention Center.

Repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Filipinos returning from abroad shall still follow the procedures  set by the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (OWWA) and the Department of Tourism.

The entry of domestic tourists shall be governed by the implementing guidelines of the Ridge to Reef Travel Corridor project whose details are incorporated in their registration through the VISITA website.

Returning Baguio residents, employees coming into the city for the first time since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine months earlier, and non-resident students may opt to undergo 14-day quarantine under the supervision of their Barangay officials as an alternative to RT-PCR or rapid antigen testing.

Persons with indispensable or work-related travel purposes regularly passing through Baguio City checkpoints, who are holders of COVID Shield Travel Authority documents (with Inter-Region Work Clearance Certificates attached) or official travel orders as issued by their respective offices shall be required to submit themselves for RT-PCR or rapid antigen testing once a month.

All travelers are reminded that registration of Health Declaration Forms through hdf.baguio.gov.ph and triage protocols are still being required, except for domestic tourists who shall register their necessary documents and itineraries at visita.baguio.gov.ph.  – Rappler.com