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Bohol reopens for leisure travel

Bohol is now open for leisure travel in time for the Christmas holidays, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat. “Bohol will be open for leisure travel, even those coming from GCQ [general community quarantine] areas,” such as Metro Manila, she said. 

Gov. Arthur Yap said Bohol will require test-before-travel for leisure tourists, as well as pre-booking of accommodation and tours. Chosen hotels and tour operators must be accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and certified by the province under its Ultimate Bohol Experience (UBE) program. 

“The hotels are ready. They are not just DOT-accredited but also have the UBE seal. It’s really helped us implement stronger health and safety protocols,” said Yap. “This is also welcome news to the airlines, because at least one or two will be able to [fly here]…. Tourists have to take their RT-PCR tests 72 hours before traveling and submit a negative test,” he stressed. 

According to DOT-Region 7 (Central Visayas), 24 accommodation establishments in Bohol have already received their certificates of authority to operate (CAO), while 130 have provisional CAOs. 

Yap also said they are seriously considering adopting the travel bubble concept for tourists coming from COVID-free countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Australia/New Zealand by next year. “The carrying capacity of Panglao Island alone is 3,000 a day, and last year, we reached 1.5 million to 1.6 million tourists. Today, I don’t think we’ve reached 10 percent of that amount, so that’s how bad the situation has been.” 

The Bohol governor said he was disappointed that MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions) did not attract the expected volume of inbound travelers after he reopened Bohol for such events. The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) conducted the Philippine Travel Exchange last September. “We did try to open to MICE events last October, but we noted the arrivals leave much to be desired,” said Yap. 

The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), which hosted an online Destination Inventory and MICE familiarization tour, committed P10 million to Bohol for the local government’s use in reopening the province to tourism. 

Ma. Anthonette C. Velasco-Allones, TPB chief operating officer, said the allocation will be used for the RT-PCR tests of Bohol’s tourism frontliners, similar to what TPB did for Boracay Island. 

“Gov. Yap and I are also discussing other schemes by which to maximize the contingency fund support,” said Allones. Under Republic Act 9353 (Tourism Act of 2009), 10 percent of its annual corporate operating budget for marketing and promotions is earmarked as a special contingency fund (SCF), to be tapped in case of emergencies. 

Meanwhile, Sec. Puyat will reiterate her proposal with the Department of Health to use the saliva test for COVID-19, which is currently used in all airports of Japan and Hong Kong, and is reported to be as accurate as the RT-PCR test.

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