BAGUIO welcomes the month of June with an announcement that it will be allowing 3,000 visitors a day.
Not just returning residents, workers, or relatives – but also tourists.
Mayor Magalong announced during the visit of Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat that allowing 3,000 tourists a day is part of the city’s strategic program for economic recovery.
A few months ago, we were already deemed ambitious when Magalong said that we will be allowing 300 tourists a day. And we even achieved that then, and that was when our daily COVID-19 cases averaged 30 to 40 cases.
Now only in May, our daily rate became double that at 62. Then last April, our daily average grew to more than 100.
So is our local government right in opening our city again for domestic tourism?
“Some of the key inputs that I am getting from a lot of other quarters is that what’s going to bounce back is domestic tourism. Once we know that’s the target segment then the stakeholders should understand that they would need to create and curate packages to cater to domestic tourists, both in terms of the value or the cost of that package as well as the travel time. The priority now would be to make short-haul destinations and weekend destinations attractive for domestic tourists.”
Good enough, di ba?
So who said this? Not Magalong. Not Berna. But Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General of the Ministry of Tourism of India in March 2020, just when that country thought it had licked the COVID-19.
And you know what happened to India when it prematurely opened its local tourism. It soon averaged 500,000 cases DAILY a year later in March 2021.
What went wrong? A lot.
Are we going to make the same mistakes?
I hope not. Baguio’s main industry is tourism and are we responding correctly?
Sad to say, No. We had the Ridge and Reef Program which should have connected Baguio to selected Ilocos destinations. It was started in June 2020 just when the cases were acclimatizing. So it wasn’t as successful as we thought.
Last month, Baguio and San Fernando City in La Union announced a more exclusive tourism program. Again we forgot the protocols of the towns between the two cities.
If you Google for successful models for domestic or even international tourism, you would chance upon Sta. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis.
Through their strict protocols, they were able to recover their tourism industries.
But can we copy their models? Of course not, these are islands; resort islands that only the richest tourists can afford.
Baguio City is a city with about five roads leading to it and it’s hard to be too strict in policing the gates. And we are not exactly a resort city that only the most determined and richest tourists would covet.
When we think of opening the floodgates, we must first ask the following questions:
- How motivated will people be to travel even once restrictions are lifted?
- How financially able will people be to travel after such hardship?
- What new expectations and preferences will travelers have?
- What types of trips and travelers should hotels be targeting?
- How should our hotels approach domestic travel marketing?
If our solutions can rightfully cover these questions then, by all means, open sesame.
If not, it’s back to WFH or wander from home for most of the targeted travelers.