By Zsarlene B. Chua, Senior Reporter
HOTELS AND RESORTS in many areas will be allowed to accept guests again starting Oct. 1, with the Department of Tourism (DoT) hoping to restart operations geared towards domestic holidaymakers with a “safe staycation” campaign.
“We welcome the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to permit ‘staycations’ or a minimum of an overnight stay for leisure purposes in GCQ (general community quarantine) areas. This decision adds to the DoT’s drive to slowly but safely resume tourism in the country and finally bring back jobs to our workers in the industry,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.
The IATF-EID approved staycations in September for cities and destinations under GCQ, a looser form of lockdown, starting next month. Ms. Puyat then signed an administrative order allowing staycations “for persons of all ages, except those with underlying medical conditions,” on Sept. 29.
Metro Manila and Cebu City are among the locations under GCQ.
The DoT guidelines require each staycation guest to present a negative result from a rapid antigen test “conducted on the same day of check-in,” and that the accommodations must secure a certificate of authority to operate for staycations from the tourism department prior to accepting guests.
A rapid antigen test, according to the World Health Organization, is a type of rapid diagnostic test that detects the presence of viral proteins (antigens) expressed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) virus via a sample from a person’s respiratory tract. It takes about 30 minutes for the test results to appear and such tests are said to be best used to identify acute or early infection.
The tourism establishments are also required to follow guidelines on guest handling including the maximum number of guests per room, as well as health and safety standards for ancillary establishments.
The tourism department may also allow guests to use ancillary facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, restaurants, and other food and beverage outlets, except for bars which remain prohibited in GCQ areas.
“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 tourism office for data analysis purposes,” Ms. Puyat said.
Staycation packages must also be “appropriate for the present market demands and conditions,” and must “strictly adhere to the existing health and safety guidelines” of the tourism department, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Health and rules and regulations imposed by the local government where the establishment is located.
Transactions must be contactless and cashless to promote minimal physical contact among staff and guests.
It should be noted that prior to the administrative order, Ms. Puyat said that hotels and accommodations which serve as quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) cannot offer staycations though they can apply to shift from being a quarantine facility into a staycation one.
Accommodation establishments are also limited to 50% occupancy.
According to the Bureau of Quarantine website, there are 312 establishments which are currently in use as quarantine facilities.
While quarantine establishments are allowed to apply to offer staycations, some such as Golden Phoenix Hotel Manila, opted to remain a quarantine hotel.
“For the meantime, (Golden Phoenix will remain) a quarantine hotel but if (Metro Manila) will transition to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine, the loosest form of quarantine in the Philippines) I will suggest to management that we separate the area or floors for quarantine and for staycations. If (DoT) will allow that,” Christine Urbanozo-Ibarreta, director of sales and marketing of Golden Phoenix Hotel Manila, said in a virtual interview Monday.
Ms. Urbanozo-Ibarreta said that they have a lot of returning overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers quarantining in their hotel, located near SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, and “we are okay for the meantime [with that market].”
“OFWs and the ROFs are more sustainable income providers than staycations. With staycations, you take a calculated risk,” Margie Munsayac, VP for sales and marketing at Bluewater Resorts, said in an interview.
Both Ms. Munsayac and Ms. Urbanozo-Ibarreta noted that guests undergoing quarantine stay longer than those having staycations. Current guidelines, they say, allow quarantine guests to stay for three days and two nights while they wait for the results of their COVID-19 tests.
As one of the industries which suffered the most under the pandemic, hotels, according to Ms. Munsayac and Ms. Urbanozo-Ibarreta, expect a recovery by the second half of 2021, largely sustained by the domestic market.
The Hotel Sales and Marketing Association — which Ms. Munsayac chairmans while Ms. Urbanozo-Ibarreta serves as president — recently held a September SOS sale featuring deals at more than 120 hotels and resorts. The vouchers, on sale until Sept. 30, are valid until September 2021. This sale, they said, was to jumpstart the recovery of the embattled sector and encourage travelers to plan ahead and travel when they think it’s safe to do so.
The sale was successful and might be an annual event, according to Ms. Urbanozo-Ibarreta.