READY FOR STAYCATION? DOT: Health and safety remains our top priority

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    Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s resident manager said DOT’s new initiative “ensures that different travel and tourism organizations remain compliant with both industry standards and international best practices for health and safety.”

    Establishments that will offer staycation services will be strictly monitored and must follow guidelines on guest handling, including the maximum number of guests per
    room, as well as health and safety standards for ancillary establishments.

    TOURISM Secretary Bernadette Romulo- Puyat recently signed the administrative order which allows “staycations” for persons of all ages, except those with underlying medical conditions, within areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

    But the DOT has also issued strict guidelines as part of the government efforts to re-start the economy through tourism.

    Aside from presenting a negative result from a rapid antigen test conducted on the same day of check-in for each staycation guest, DOT also requires all accommodation establishments in areas declared to be under GCQ to secure a DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycations (DCAOS) prior to accommodating any guests for staycation.

    There are currently 10,042 DOT accredited tourism enterprises nationwide. A total of 6,045 hotels, resorts, and other accommodation establishments were issued Provisional/ Certificates of Authority to Operate during the community quarantine in compliance with the department’s guidelines.

    The DOT has yet to release the list of hotels and other establishments located in Metro Manila allowed to receive guests for staycations.

    “As safety remains the DOT’s top priority, establishments that will offer staycation services will be strictly monitored. They will be required to keep a record of occupancy and submit it every 10th of the month to the relevant DOT regional office and local government unit (LGU) tourism office for data analysis purposes,” Puyat said.

    These establishments must follow guidelines on guest handling, including the maximum number of guests per room, as well as health and safety standards for ancillary establishments.

    They may also resume operations of ancillary facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, restaurants and other food and beverage outlets, except for bars which remain prohibited in GCQ areas.

    Accommodation establishments are required to “develop staycation packages that are appropriate for the present market demands and conditions. The offerings must strictly adhere to the existing health and safety guidelines of the DOT and will likewise be monitored by the concerned regional office of the department,” she added.

    To promote minimal physical contact among staff and guests, contactless and cashless transactions for taking bookings and payments are also mandatory. “Violators shall suffer appropriate fines and fees, including revocation of DOT accreditation,” Puyat warned.

    To make accreditation faster, the DOT also recently launched an online system which promises to speed up requests from local tourism establishments for staycations.

    The online system is an upgraded version that provides for the creation of business accounts, email verification, real-time application status notification, and an upcoming online payment system.

    The DOT secretary said the new system also aims to facilitate accreditation requests, contactless transactions, and hazard-free government services under the “new normal.”

    “This is a strong reflection of the DOT’s own advocacy toward adopting or shifting to e-commerce and contactless transactions as recommended protocols in the new normal,” Puyat noted.

    “Through the new system, we hope to ease the burden of local businesses, including the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) who collectively form the backbone of the tourism industry,” she added.

    Some of the hotel brands are acknowledging this new initiative.

    “Granting accreditation online is an acceptable alternative that will still allow the DOT to regulate establishments during the pandemic,” Jun Justo, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel general manager, said.

    But Justo stressed the online accreditation should not be made the standard process because “actual inspections are still needed” to ensure that establishments truly comply.

    Pamela Joy Barleta, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila resident manager, said DOT’s new initiative “ensures that different travel and tourism organizations remain compliant with both industry standards and international best practices for health and safety.”

    Vanessa Ledesma Suatengco, Diamond Hotel Philippines general manager, said the online accreditation serves as a welcome change to the tourism stakeholders and a big step to digitalization.

    “Accommodation operators are expected to be forthright and honest in scoring themselves,” shared Natalie Lim, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo general manager, “as the online system will not include physical inspection by an auditor.”

    Lim said the online process is a big help to operators particularly those needing introduction to or a refresher on standards in the hotel industry and how to better serve guests.

    David Pardo de Ayala, Discovery Primea general manager, said the online accreditation gives them “more time and energy to focus more on operations and preparing for the reopening to the leisure market.”

    Jorold Montelibano, Richmonde Hotel Ortigas general manager, said the new system “is a good move especially at a time when establishments need to act fast and adapt to the current situation in order to keep their businesses afloat.”

    Bruce Winton, Marriott’s cluster general manager, said the sudden shift to e-commerce was a challenge for them in the business but with the DOT’s enhanced online accreditation platform, “the transition will be much more bearable.”

    While tourism establishments may need some time to fully adapt and adjust to the digitalization, Winton also said it is better to take a leap before it is too late, and the assurance of hazard-free and sped up transactions for hotels like Marriott is something they look forward to even after this pandemic.

    Once accredited, tourism enterprises are certified as having complied with the minimum standards for the operation of tourism facilities and services. Issued in May, the guidelines govern the operations of AEs, tourist transport operations, restaurants, MICE operations and island and beach destinations in preparation of the resumption of tourism activities.

    As prescribed by the guidelines, establishments must adhere to other issuances on health and safety standards from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or Department of Health (DOH) as well as rules and regulations imposed by the LGU concerned.

    The tourism chief also issued a memorandum circular updating and harmonizing these guidelines with existing policies set by sector-relevant agencies and ensuring more adequate health and safety guidelines, especially for the operation of ancillary establishments within the accommodation establishments.

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