Nationwide shift to lowest quarantine classification to help revive tourism — DOT

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 17) — An easing of restrictions on the entire country to modified general community quarantine amid the lingering pandemic plays a crucial role in giving the ailing tourism industry a boost, the Department of Tourism said Wednesday.

“[A]ng importante kung [What’s important is under] MGCQ, tourism is already allowed. We should really restart na talaga tourism. Too many people have lost their jobs,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat when asked how crucial is the proposed nationwide movement to modified general community quarantine by next month. She said 4.8 million industry workers have been affected by the pandemic.

While staycations have been allowed under GCQ and tourism authorities were able to push through with allowing public access to Intramuros again, Puyat said this quarantine status is why the historical tourist spot and even the National Museum weren’t able to operate then. Metro Manila remains under GCQ, while most parts of the country are under MGCQ.

“We're grateful na napayagan na magbukas but syempre pag MGCQ at least it's freer...tourism can just be open for everybody,” said Puyat, emphasizing current health and safety protocols are in place, and that people "already know what to do" after almost a year now of practicing these measures in response to the pandemic.

[Translation: We’re grateful the opening was approved but of course under MGCQ at least it’s freer…tourism can just be open for everybody.]

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier recommended a nationwide shift to the lowest form of community quarantine beginning March, citing the need to bounce back from huge economic losses incurred under pandemic-induced mobility restrictions.

Limited tourist attractions like historical sites and museums are among the establishments the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed to resume operations in areas under GCQ, as announced by spokesman Harry Roque late last week. 

More demand for outdoor tourism activities

Among the changes the pandemic has ushered in is the evolution in preferences of travelers, Puyat said, particularly the preference for outdoor activities.

“As gathered from the national travel survey, there is a clamor for more outdoor tourism activities, historical and cultural destinations,” she said.

The latest Philippine Travel Survey, which was conducted from Nov. 28 to Dec. 30, revealed respondents have been choosing outdoor activities in well-ventilated areas like going to the beach, hiking and biking during their leisure trips.

With the health crisis “drastically” changing Filipinos’ relationship with streets, public spaces and facilities, the official said the reopening of Intramuros shall attract people with its accessible, open spaces within a rather dense urban area.

“With the easing of quarantine restrictions while the recommended health and safety protocols remain in place, Intramuros is ready and prepared to welcome back the public to the city’s many plazas, open spaces, heritage sites, and museums,” said Puyat.