NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Tourism will re-open in time for the celebration of the Yuletide season.
This, if Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat has to assess some top tourist destinations in the country, including the province of Bohol.
However, amidst the pandemic, the final assessment and decision has to be made by the local government units, she said.
The tourism top official bared this during a post press conference of the 19th Philippine Travel Exchange held at the Bellevue Resort in Panglao yesterday.
She confirmed that after the gradual opening of Baguio City, it will be Boracay to follow.
Asked to comment on this, Gov. Art Yap said “no definite time can yet be decided as the Bohol Inter Agency Task Force still continues to assess the present situation in terms of controlling the spread of the Coronavirus.”
In addressing delegates to PHITEX 2020, Yap said Bohol is “doing so with eyes wide open to the need to ensure the safety of our visitors and our constituents through having testing facilities available, contact tracing applications in place, and contactless transactions a regular feature of our tourism very soon”.
The Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2020 hybrid edition held in Panglao, Bohol from Sept 23 to 25, 2020 closed with groundbreaking records, generating 4.5 million in projected revenues from bookings and with 1,134 contacts established as of yesterday.
“Imagine that the 4.5 million is only 14 percent of the sellers and this is in the midst of COVID. It shows that they have confidence that when they come to the Philippines, it’s safe for tourists to come here,” declared Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat who arrived on Friday to grace the Christmas-themed Closing Ceremony held at the Bellevue Resort.
With the theme “PHITEX Pivots, Business UNusual,” this year’s event takes on a hybrid format being held in Bohol while utilizing the virtual platform for the exclusive business-to-business meetings between Philippine sellers and foreign buyers in the midst of travel restrictions implemented during the pandemic.
“We kept looking all over the world if there is a hybrid or one that is done on the ground that is on a tourist spot, and online. But everything was online. So, this is actually the first. What is good news is that we’ve proven that this can be done,” Sec. Puyat stated.
“We are trying our best to balance these powerful forces, by showcasing the beauty and bounty of our waters and land, as well as paying homage to our culture of faith, patriotism, and the creative arts,” according to the governor.
He also pointed out that only when the province “can be sure that we can safeguard the health of visitors and locals alike will we attempt to open up tourism in measured steps, one day at a time”.
“This time, it will be with a better sense of what we must prioritize and protect beyond the glitz, hoopla and the superficial,” Yap added.
The governor thanked Tourism Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat for believing in Bohol and sending the Tourism Promotions Board under the able leadership of Atty. Antoinette Velasco-Allones, and the DOT family to work with the province of Bohol towards this end.
Bohol takes pride in hosting the 19th Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX), showcasing the ability of the province to test run contactless tourism sellers-and-buyers meet to arrange point-to-point itineraries, as well as the testing capability and contact-tracing app in place.
Gov. Art Yap emphasized the need to balance between the excitement of visitors and the protection of host communities at this time of the pandemic.
“Thank you for coming to Bohol and inspiring us to pick up where we left off last year. Here is to an extra-ordinary and successful Phitex 2020 Bohol, under the new and the better normal,” Yap said.
He described Phitex 2020 as extra-ordinary “because this buyers-and-sellers meet is being held at the time of the greatest global pandemic that our generation has seen”.
“As we speak, 31.4 million people all over the world are presently infected by Covid-19, with close to a million deaths. But juxtaposed with those figures are more than 21 million people who have recovered as well from the infection, showing all that there are ways to confront, manage and survive this affliction,” Yap cited.
The governor further said that “Phitex 2020 is extraordinary as well, because it shows the courage and resiliency of the Philippine tourism sector”.
“Despite the pandemic, PHITEx 2020 has brought together a severely impacted industry that has lost millions of jobs and billions in revenues, yet rises today here in Bohol, in defiance of the odds, to reopen its doors once more and reclaim our lives from fear and uncertainty,” according to Yap.
The governor also mentioned that the “interest and excitement that Phitex 2020 has generated only shows that tourism and the need to travel and explore the world remain alive and well for many”.
“Instead of viewing Covid-19 as a total tragedy, in time, we may actually quietly agree that it was the bitter pill that we all had to swallow to stop the world from the maddening tourism of consumerism, excess, and abuse. With Covid, tourism takes on a new leaf: slower and yet more decisive,” according to Yap.
The governor explained that it should be a slower tourism now to make the people “appreciate the fragility, beauty and the interdependence of our ecosystem”
It must also be a decisive tourism, “because there can be no doubt now that we now need to make a clear stand on the sustainability, care and resiliency of our world”, according to Yap.
“Bohol stands proud to have been chosen to host Phitex 2020 and along the way, finds its bearings itself. Like you, we are charting our course among the rough tides of those who want us to remain closed, and others who want us to reopen our economy now,” Yap added.