To propel the recovery of the tourism sector in the country, the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN), through the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO), is set to resume its operations after almost a seven-month community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic by opening its gateway for Luzon tourists starting today, October 15.
Ilocos Norte is the first province in Region I, alongside Baguio City, to welcome tourists as part of intra-regional collaborative efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Northern Luzon tourism.
Last month, delegations composed of Region I tourism officers, representatives from local government executives, and presidents of various tourism stakeholders associations, attended the launching of “Ridge and Reef Travel Corridor,” in Baguio City, formally reopening domestic tourism in the country.
As a kick-off, INTO will conduct a drive-in concert at Suba, Paoay Sand Dunes, subsequently permitting tourism activities in the province’s national parks, geological monuments, and historic plazas such as the Paoay Lake, Laoag City’s Sand Dunes, and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, among others.
“To our kakailian who are concerned about the reopening of our tourism, we at the Provincial Government promised to do everything to place all safeguards possible. We will do it the safest way possible,” Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc stated.
Ensuring the seamless enjoyment and utmost safety of both tourists and residents, the Provincial Government has established a one-stop-shop pasalubong center called the Ilocano Migrants Monument Visitor Center in Laoag City and the Ilocos Norte Triage in the town of Pinili.
“It is very important to note that we are encountering very unique circumstances, things that we never really anticipated. But with the support of the Department of Tourism (DOT), we are opening tourism in Northern Luzon. We will start our recovery under the ‘new normal’ and we will do it surely, safely, and gradually,”
“Let’s survive this challenge that we are facing. Hopefully, maging successful ang reopening na ito para maging benchmark ito ng ibang cities and provinces sa bansa,” Provincial Tourism Officer,” Mr. Aian Raquel remarked.
Ilocos Norte sets reopening guidelines for Luzon tourists
As Ilocos Norte prepares to unlock its borders for leisure travels, Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc has issued, through an Executive Order, guidelines for safely welcoming tourists from other Luzon regions, reviving the hospitality sector that has been on hiatus because of the pandemic.
The Phase II of the Ridge and Reef Expanded Travel Corridor initiative of the Chief Executive and Tourism Councils in Northern Luzon, marks the increased travel freedom in the province by allowing tourists in Luzon Island to visit Ilocos Norte starting October 15.
Only fifty (50) pre-arranged visitors, through the Department of Tourism (DOT)-accredited tour agencies and establishments, are allowed to enter the province each day. Persons who are pregnant, with comorbidities, and children with chronic health conditions are not permitted to travel.
Under Executive Order 98-2020, an Order Establishing the Guidelines for the Second Phase of the Reopening of Tourism in Ilocos Norte, visitors are subject to a compulsory COVID-19 test before traveling to the province.
In the identified General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified GCQ (MGCQ) areas with a sharp infection rate, travelers must have RT-PCR test results released within 72 hours prior to arrival. Travelers should also undergo Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) at the provincial borders upon arrival.
Alternatively, travelers from these areas can have RDT issued within 30 hours of arrival and RT-PCR test will follow upon the arrival. While in GCQ and MGCQ areas with a low infection rate, travelers can either have RT-PCR or RDT test and another RDT at the border upon arrival.
Leisure travelers who plan to stay for longer than three (3) days in the province must follow the repeat RDT test on the fourth (4th), ninth (9th), and fourteenth (14th) day of stay.
Registration to SafePass is also necessary for systemized management and contact tracing. The tourist’s information such as confirmed accommodation, travel agent, confirmed itinerary, medical certificate, and negative test results are recorded in every account.
Likewise, the software application will generate a QR code that will serve as the visitor’s Health Declaration ID and Travel Pass Authority at the provincial borders.
Tourists can only proceed with their itinerary with the guidance of their travel agencies only if they have accomplished the following on a designated Visitors Center: negative COVID-19 test results, validated Health Declaration, and signed Affidavit of Understanding.
In cases that a tourist manifests COVID-19 symptoms or strays from the set itinerary and cannot be contacted for two hours, an RT-PCR re-test is required.
With the gradual easing of travel restrictions and enabling tourism to begin again, Governor Manotoc assures that the priority of this initiative will essentially benefit the tourism-dependent families.