Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia expressed on Friday, October 16 that all Cebuano tourists should not be given a hard time by requiring them with many documentary travel requirements.
This as she announced that there are no age restrictions for tourists who wish to visit Cebu’s renowned tourist spots.
During the local tourism stakeholders’ dialogue in Sta. Fe town, Bantayan Island, Garcia also announced the formal re-opening of tourism in the charming and breathtaking Bantayan Island, considered as the “Paradise of the North.”
Guests are required to present their confirmed booking at hotels and resorts upon embarking at the ports. These confirmed bookings will also serve as requirement for the purchase of the two-way boat ticket in going to the island tourism sites.
Tourism operators expressed their concern that some prospective guests are wary of travelling because of stringent protocols including being asked of medical certificates.
The Provincial Tourism Task Force considers the two-way ticket as proof that their visit is tourism in nature and thus differentiates them from Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR), and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or repatriated Filipinos and or seafarers.
Garcia said every Cebuano, regardless of their age, can visit any tourism sites in Cebu since the Province is already in a Modified General Community Quarantine.
Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Director Shalimar Tamano supported the governor’s statement, adding that families prefer to travel together.
“Who would want to travel kun dili kuyog ang pamilya,” he quipped.
In the stakeholders’ dialogue, it was agreed that shipping companies serving the Bantayan Island route from Hagnaya Port in San Remigio town should ask for the QR code of their confirmed tour bookings before allowing tourists to board the ferry.
This is aside from the standard face mask and face shield requirement for all travelers and other health and safety protocols.
The shipping companies are also required to post their scheduled trips at the tourism portal www.discover.cebu.gov.ph. so guests can easily check the availability of trips.
Guests are likewise encouraged to wear personal air purifiers upon entry in resorts and accommodation establishments. Should they fail to have one, the establishments will have to provide for them by renting it out to the guests.
Tourism stakeholders were elated when Garcia announced the reopening of tourism in Bantayan Island.
“This is a message of gratitude Gov. Thank you very much for coming and for opening us up again and helping us with our economy,” Rissa Gigante, an accommodation operator, said and her voice cracked upon thanking the governor.
Sta. Fe Mayor Ithamar Espinosa said he had second thoughts on the reopening of tourism but expressed his full trust and confidence on Garcia and the tourism task force in leading the island to a new normal in tourism.
“Sa akong pagtimbang-timbang daw sa nabahin akong hunahuna. Mahimo ba kong malipayon karon nga aduna na’y kahayag nga subli nang mag-abli ang turismo o mabalaka kaha sa pagdagsa na unya sa bagang duot sa katawhan. Niining tungora, sa dako nako nga pagyukbo ang maong dakong lakang og kalambuan sa akong lungsod nga pagkonsiderar sa kadaghanan isip Paradise of the North, gitugyan nako kanimo Gobernadora uban sa imong task force for tourism,” he said.
“Basta kun unsay madesisyonan ninyo karong adlawa, ako inubanan sa mga Sta. Fehanon, sama sa kanunay, way paglubad nga mosuporta kanimo Governor Gwen Garcia, sa panon paingon sa labing bag-ong kalambuan sa turismo,” the mayor expressed.
Sta. Fe was cited last year by DOT as the 7th most visited tourism site in the Philippines and the 1st in Cebu Province.
Considered as the “Paradise of the North”, Bantayan Island, particularly the town of Sta. Fe highly depends on tourism.
“Sirado ang turismo, sirado sad ang negosyo. Wala’y mga bisita wala pu’y kita ang katawhan,” Espinosa said.
Madridejos Mayor Salvador dela Fuente, meanwhile, said that while their town is far away from the influx of tourists and activities in Sta. Fe, opening the island’s tourism will greatly benefit them as well.
“Kami sa Madridejos bisan tuod wala kami daghan turista pero kami taga Madridejos kami ang nag-suplay sa mga seafoods diri sa inyo sa Sta Fe, sa Bantayan. Salamat Gov. Dako kaayo ni nga factor tungod kay mosaka na sad ang presyo sa mananagat ug sa demand nga mahitabo diri sa Sta. Fe,” he said.
The governor underscored that reopening tourism is a priority as millions of Cebuanos whose income and livelihood were lost have been suffering since the start of the lockdown in March.
“I don’t think anyone can accuse me now that I am making light of Covid-19. Because I have suffered through Covid-19 and I continue to suffer because I have lost two brothers. And I continue to suffer as governor when I see the suffering of the Cebuanos precisely because of these restrictions that have been imposed for Covid-19,” Garcia said.
“Apan nia ko, to tell you and to sound the clarion call that Bantayan Island and the municipalities of Sta. Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos are open for the tourism business,” she said. (Vanessa L. Almeda)