NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
No less than Tourism Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat announced the reopening of Bohol to frequent individual travelers (FITs) and leisure tourism by December 15.
On this, the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) sets four general requirements for interested FITs and leisure tourists: negative RT-PCR test result- -with swab test taken 72 hours prior to travel, confirmed hotel booking at DOT-accredited or UBE (Ultimate Bohol Experience)-certified accommodation, pre-arranged transport and tours with DOT-accredited operators, and tourist registration via tourism.bohol.gov.ph for tourist QR code.
The protocols for FITs and leisure tourists are the same as the protocol for visitors who are coming for meetings, incentives, conferences/conventions, or exhibitions (MICE) events.
On Tuesday last week, Bohol hosted the Tourism Destination Inventory and Familiarization Tour of delegates from the Tourism Promotions Board- -led by COO Maria Anthonette Velasco Allones, and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), DSWD/Task Force on Social Recovery, SB Corp/Task Group on economic recovery, Department of Agriculture/Task Group on food resiliency and private sector.
It was during the press conference for the Tourism Destination Inventory and Familiarization Tour that Romulo-Puyat announced the reopening of Bohol for FITs and leisure tourism.
The following day, Gov. Art Yap had a consultative meeting with Allones and other officials of the TPB, NEDA, DSWD, SB Corp, DA, and representatives of the private sector.
During the meeting, Yap presented the provincial government’s program under the We Survive as One Bohol banner.
Bohol secured various support from national agencies which include P10 million coming from the DOT as subsidy for the RT-PCR testing of tourists who will be coming.
The business sector and others from the private sector assured support in promoting Bohol for the gradual reopening of Bohol tourism.
The governor also appreciated delegates’ comments, describing Bohol as most tourist-friendly destination under the new normal.
The delegates were also impressed by the contact tracing system of Bohol where the delegates from the private sector suggested to the DOT to lobby to the national government for replication of Bohol’s contact tracing system nationwide.
Reopening Bohol tourism is consistent with National IATF Resolution 50, supporting the recommendations to further open up the economy while revisiting strategies to boost the confidence of the people to go back to work and strengthen the mitigating measures on strictly enforcing minimum public health and safety standards.
Reopening Bohol tourism is also in line with Phase II of the National Action Plan as approved in National IATF Resoluion 51 that provides for gradual resumption of travel tourism and non-disruption of work to strategically balance health and economic objectives, and to concentrate efforts on expanded and targeted testing and contact tracing.
On Nov. 15, Bohol’s tourism reopening started with MICE events and other events such as weddings, reunions, anniversaries, birthdays and similar celebrations with at least six attendees from outside Bohol.
On Tuesday next week, Bohol will be inching on with FITs and leisure tourism.
The visitors are required to have confirmed booking with an accommodation establishment located in the municipalities of Panglao or Dauis which has a Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO) from the Department of Tourism or the Ultimate Bohol Experience (UBE) Seal from the Provincial Government of Bohol.
Only tourists who have obtained a negative result from a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test issued by a DOH-accredited RT-PCR laboratory not earlier than 72 hours prior to the date of travel shall be allowed entry to Bohol.
Tourists are also strongly advised to observe strict quarantine immediately after undergoing the RT-PCR test until the date of travel to Bohol.
Tourists who have cancelled bookings or last-minute changes in their flight schedules may also opt to be swabbed upon arrival in Bohol at their own expense. However, they would need to fill up a signed undertaking stating they are willing to undergo strict hotel quarantine until their negative RT-PCR test result is released.
For tourists who are staying for more than five days, they must undergo a repeat RT-PCR test on the fifth day of their stay.
Locals may join the allowed MICE and events, provided that after the particular activity they attended, they will agree to be quarantined for five days and be swabbed for RT-PCR testing and that they will only be allowed to go home once a negative result of said test is released.
On visits to tourism sites, trips outside the accommodation establishment may only be done through DOT-accredited travel and tour operators and only to sites which have the UBE Seal.
The list of tourism service providers with DOT accreditation and establishments granted the UBE Seal are posted on the Bohol Tourism website, tourism.bohol.gov.ph.
Tourists must register through the Bohol Tourist Registration portal via tourism.bohol.gov.ph.
Registered tourists will be sent necessary information and instructions through their respective email addresses.
A personal QR code will be assigned to each registered tourist which would serve as their electronic visitor’s ID.
It is strictly mandated that there shall be no walk-in tourists.
All registered tourists must properly document their trips.
All tourists must strictly follow health and safety protocols at all times- -wearing of face masks, frequent handwashing or sanitizing of hands, and physical distancing.
Each tourist must present a copy of his or her negative RT-PCR test result upon check-in or a signed undertaking to take the RT-PCR test upon arrival and undergo strict quarantine until the negative RT-PCR test result is issued.
The unique QR code given to each tourist, regardless of age, after the online registration shall be scanned upon arrival at the Bohol-Panglao International Airport or port of entry. Tourists must always carry an electronic copy of their documents. The QR codes are scanned upon entrance and exit of establishments and sites.
Upon arrival in Bohol, all tourists shall be fetched by the transport service of the accommodation establishment where they shall stay or by a pre-booked tourist transport service from the list of accredited tourist transport service providers and after which they shall then be immediately brought to their respective accommodation establishments.
Stopovers from port or airport to accommodation establishments are not allowed. Tourists are also not allowed to meet with friends, relatives, or acquaintances outside of the tourist bubble.
Accommodation establishments, restaurants, dive centers, sites, attractions, transport, event venues and other tourism related establishments must strictly implement all health and safety protocols as stated in the national and local government regulations; require all tourists to present their QR codes for scanning at the entrance and exit using the contact tracing system application provided by the Provincial Government of Bohol; strictly implement crowd control measures to ensure that physical distancing is observed at all times; and prepare an incident management plan and isolation area for guests who manifest symptoms during their stay.
Only DOT-accredited and UBE certified tour operators are allowed to handle tours for tourists and must book through the central reservation system for sites.
Tour operators must only engage the services of DOT-accredited tourist transport providers, tour guides and LGU certified community guides in specific sites.
Stops are only allowed in designated areas and that tour operators must strictly follow the pre-set itinerary and must not deviate from the same.
Tour operators must book their tours through reservation system provided by the Provincial Government of Bohol.
Tour operators must submit the list of all tour itineraries offered to guests to the Bohol Tourism Office.
All the staff members of accommodation establishments and tourism service providers shall strictly comply with the existing guidelines issued by the DOT, DTI, DOLE, and the Provincial Government of Bohol.
TARSIER 117 and the Provincial Health Office-OPCEN are tasked to form a tourist emergency response team to respond to medical emergencies.
In the event that a guest will exhibit Covid-19 symptoms, he or she will immediately be isolated and will undergo an RT-PCR test.
The tour guide or tour operator must contact the medical response team for further assessment and needed care.
The Bohol Tourism Office is tasked in the monitoring of the implementation of the Bohol Tourist Bubble protocols.
The BTO may enlist the support and assistance of government agencies and other concerned bodies to ensure strict implementation of EO 53.
Violations of the EO shall be penalized under existing applicable laws and ordinances.