DOT welcomes tourists, makes travel safer, more fun
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:00 AM June 28, 2021
Written by: Amy R. Remo
Safe travel’ is the new stamp of excellence in the global tourism industry.
As the world shifts to an era that places a heightened focus on health and safety, the Philippines, too, has been massively rolling out programs and measures to ensure “safe, secure and seamless” domestic travel, while at the same time, helping jumpstart a beleaguered industry that was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
One of these measures is the resumption of subsidies for the RT-PCR testing of qualified domestic tourists—a move seen to help bring the Philippine tourism industry back on its feet, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
“The Philippine tourism industry has been adversely affected by the pandemic. The subsidy aims to encourage domestic travel by aiding local tourists in fulfilling the RT-PCR test requirement, enabling them to visit their destination of choice at a lesser cost,” Puyat said in a statement.
The Department of Tourism announced earlier this month that it would subsidize 50 percent of the cost of RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test for “approved domestic leisure tourists”. This was following the recent pronouncement of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which allowed leisure travel for persons of all ages between the NCR Plus bubble and areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
To qualify for the subsidy, domestic tourists must have confirmed, round-trip transportation tickets and a booking confirmation with a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment.
Extended subsidy program
The initial agreement for the processing and endorsement of applications for RT-PCR test subsidy to accredited hospitals–namely, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) in Manila and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) in Quezon City–covered the period up to June 30 this year, according to advisory from the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPB). This has benefited an estimated 23,000 domestic travelers.
Recently, the TPB renewed its partnership with PCMC for the second phase implementation of the RT-PCR test financial subsidy program for domestic tourists.
TPB Chief Operating Officer Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones and PCMC Executive Director Julius A. Lecciones signed the Memorandum of Agreement in a virtual ceremony to roll out the RT-PCR subsidy from July to December 2021 to aid 13,333 qualified domestic tourists.
Discussions, meanwhile, are underway to extend the RT-PCR Subsidy Program up to December 31 for UP-PGH.
“This program is just one of the strategic steps that DOT and TPB are working on as we gear towards recovery, and pave the way to safe and gradual reopening of tourism destinations. We are pushing for these initiatives to help our economy recover and we are optimistic that more industry stakeholders, local government units and agencies will work hand-in-hand with us on this endeavor,” Puyat said.
The extended subsidy program with PCMC will cost the TPB around 9 million pesos but this is a small amount compared to the hefty contribution of the travel and tourism industry on the Philippine economy.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that in the midst of the pandemic, travel and tourism still accounted for 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. This was a huge drop compared to pre-pandemic 2019 when the total contribution of travel and tourism to Philippine GDP stood at 12.7 percent.
Since the Philippines cannot accept foreign travelers for now due to pandemic-induced restrictions, the DOT has turned to domestic tourism to help boost consumer spending and livelihood of those in this industry, which in turn could hasten economic recovery.
“We, at the DOT, are doing whatever we can to help the industry and its stakeholders recoup their losses and ensure security and sustainability amid this pandemic,” Puyat concluded.