Baguio’s VISITA protects tourists

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    Before the pandemic, Baguio was among the top destinations for both local and foreign tourists. Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the revival of local tourism will be done slowly, surely and safely in a calibrated and graduated manner.

    As confidence in traveling locally grows, the DOT hopes to emulate its success in many other areas around the country, giving momentum to its push for the tourism industry’s recovery.

    THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has introduced the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA), a new digital monitoring system that will be used to keep track of visitor activities to protect tourists as well as the communities within the new green corridor.

    This will complement the stringent inter-provincial border controls designed to safeguard the public’s health and safety in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Ilocos Region.

    The digital platform’s Visitor Web Dashboard is for account registration, travel registration, payments, QR coupon reading, and dispensing travel advisories and tourism information.

    The Site Portal, on the other hand, is for the profile registration of tourism establishments, services and sites. It also hosts the check in/out mechanism and centralized contact-tracing database.

    The Admin Interface is for the real-time monitoring of visitor profiles and sites visited as well as setting registration requirements and visitor criteria. It contains data analytics and advisories.

    The Mobile App, the mobile version of VISITA’s web functions, receives real-time notifications and can be used as a travel guide and for assistance.

    At the virtual launch, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city will welcome its northern brothers in Ilocos Region in an unprecedented but innovative way that makes possible safety and economic concerns to go hand in hand.

    Magalong added the revival of local tourism will be done slowly, surely and safely in a calibrated and graduated manner. The goal, he said, is crystal clear: to make sure that no one – residents, visitors, tourists and travelers – will get in harm’s way.

    Starting next week, the Creative City will reopen and admit qualified visitors only at a manageable level – 200 Ilocos Region visitors a day.

    Magalong emphasized the importance of basic health and protection practices throughout the city.

    Joseph Francisco Ortega, DOT-I regional director, appealed to the tourists to be patient, to continue their discipline and support, and not to be complacent saying “one wrong move can paralyze all of our combined efforts to fight this pandemic in a way that has never been before.”

    After getting a soft commitment from both the local government units (LGUs) and health sector, the DOT, with a technical working group, set out to identify select tourist destinations which showed tourism readiness in the new normal.

    The group finalized the initial list of tourism circuits, then planned alongside the tour and travel operators the packages that come with accommodations, Ortega said.

    It is mandatory for tour transports and tour guides to assist would-be visitors and to guarantee that they do not deviate from the controlled itineraries, as localities in Region 1 still need to further enhance their monitoring and contact tracing capabilities.

    Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, DOT secretary, mentioned the strict set of criteria needed to qualify as a travel corridor.

    “These include low or no COVID-19 cases, the presence of an international gateway for foreign tourists, available health facilities to support the influx of tourists, new normal protocols are in place, and the openness of the LGUs and host communities to accept and host tourists,” she explained.

    Puyat added the immediate task was to jumpstart the local tourism industry, allowing it to become a major driver of the country’s socio-economic growth once more.

    The DOT provided the technology to Baguio’s local government for free through the Tourism Promotions Board to support the city’s gradual reopening to tourists, starting with the Ridge and Reef Corridor Plan with the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

    In certain destinations, Puyat said it became apparent that the development of travel bubbles or travel corridors is one of the most viable methods by which tourism could be reopened.

    “It (travel corridor) will allow the citizens of provinces or regions to travel safely within designated zones,” she stressed.

    The DOT strongly encouraged its stakeholders to embrace the digitalization of their business processes. As the world moves toward contactless transactions, it is important for them to adapt quickly to the low-touch economy, Puyat said.

    As confidence in traveling locally grows, the DOT hopes to emulate its success in many other areas around the country, giving momentum to its push for the tourism industry’s recovery.