3 TOURIST SPOTS REOPEN: Airlines to end year at 20% capacity

    Fly safe. Airlines are augmenting the Manila airport’s capacity to screen travellers with Philippine Airlines setting up its COVID testing facility at NAIA Terminal 2 (in photo) and soon, Cebu Pacific at the Resorts World.

    With the local airline industry expected to end the year just at 20 percent of its capacity pre-pandemic, the gradual opening of three of the Philippines’ hottest tourism destinations which have zero to low number of new coronavirus 2019 cases may help the recovery of the country’s carriers sooner than the initial projection of two to three years.

    Bohol, Boracay and Baguio City are all gearing up for reopening to local tourists initially, each with its own schemes to ensure safe and enjoyable travel to tourists.

    But executives from the airline and hotel industries are clamoring for standard requirements of local government units (LGUs) in allowing tourists so they can market their services effectively and adjust their operations accordingly.

    Bonifacio Sam, president of PAL Express (PALEx) said at the dialogue between tourism stakeholders and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the airlines have resumed operations but they are nowhere near where they have been before the crisis.

    Sam said PALEx has been operating at 12 percent of its capacity as of August, with the number of flights down to just 360 per month from 3,200.

    He said the airline plans to increase to 18 the number of its destinations starting this month from just 11 as of August.

    PALex used to serve over 30 destinations. Ten of those remain unserved due to travel restrictions imposed by the LGUs.

    He said if these restrictions continue, “we will see that at end this year we will recover 20 percent of our previous capacity. The same may be true with other airlines.”

    Jose Mari del Rosario, president and chief executive officer of Phinma Microtel Hotels Inc., echoed Sam’s call to have a standard LGU requirements such as health declarations to encourage more travel.

    For Bohol, Governor Arthur Yap said the strategy is to have a travel bubble within a travel bubble where it opens Panglao to travellers on a point-to-point basis to residents from low to zero COVID cases since the town has its own airport.

    Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflore said Boracay, which contributes 20 percent to tourism, is looking at attracting not just domestic tourists but international as well using the criteria set by other countries which have opened their islands starting July 1: low number of COVID cases as well as test surveillance and containment system and health declaration and travel insurance coverage of travellers.

    Miraflores said Boracay has been opened to residents of Western Visayas last July 1 and will allow domestic tourists by October 1.

    By December, the phase 3 of opening, Boracay will open to international tourists such as those from South Korea, Taiwan, China and

    Singapore which have direct flights to Kalibo.

    Boracay currently has no COVID case.

    Baguio City meanwhile is implementing the BLUSPIN corridor travel strategy involving Baguio City, La Union (Bauang and San Juan); Pangasinan (Bolinao and Alaminos) ; Ilocos Sur (Vigan) and; Ilocos Norte (Laoag and Pagudpud) as part of its gradual reopening.

    It will remove starting today the quarantine passes and other restrictions to entry from areas with zero to low COVID cases.

    Baguio City plans to expand the corridor to cover provinces in regions 2 and 3.