DOT to roll out ‘new normal’ policies for hotels, tour operators, restaurants

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is preparing a series of protocols and practices that stakeholders have to adopt in a “new normal” environment, post-Covid 19.

In Wednesday’s virtual hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole, DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination, and Resource Generation Arturo P. Boncato Jr. said the agency is rolling out an omnibus revised tourism standards in the next few weeks “anchored on new normal standards as espoused by the Department of Health, the World Health Organization, and also anchored on best practices around the world.”

He added, there would be changes in accommodation establishments such as “mandating a maximum of double occupancy for all of the hotels and for restaurants, starting with 50-percent occupancy in terms of operations in dining.”

In her presentation to the lawmakers at the beginning of the hearing, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said these policies covering the “new normal” for the travel and tourism industry, will focus on the safety and well-being of the both tourists and residents alike.

For instance, there should be regular sanitation/disinfection of accommodation (hotels, resorts, etc.), tourist transport services, and tourism related establishments such as meeting and exhibit venues, restaurants, spas, and the like.

Also, establishments should provide sanitation/disinfecting devices, including personal protective equipment (PPE), for tourism workers, she said.

These tourism establishments will be regularly inspected by relevant government agencies in relation to health and safety standards, such as the Department of Health.

Romulo Puyat added, they will also require physical distancing in tourist transports, “such as requiring passengers to stay one seat apart,” and “limiting the customer capacity of accommodations and tourism-related enterprises.”

Already, several hotel establishments in the country have adopted their own measures on physical distancing as well as health and sanitation. (See, “Tech-driven sanitation key part of ‘new normal’ in hotels,” in the BusinessMirror, May 19, 2020.)

In response to a question from Senator Francis Tolentino, Boncato said, “Some hotels are actually operational now; we have about 1,000 hotels all over the country with more than 64,000 rooms, but they’re housing OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), and employees in essential industries like BPOs (business process outsourcing), banks, and healthcare facilities.”

He also said the Inter-Agency Task Force has allowed the hotel industry to fully reopen under the modified general community quarantine, and under the “new normal” policies that will be issued by the DOT, these establishments “will be allowed to operate 50 percent of operations.”

Boncato underscored that the DOT “will invest initially, heavily in domestic tourism. We are going to help our stakeholders, and to build confidence among our travelers within the country first, as other countries in the world are doing as well In previous presentations, Romulo Puyat said the domestic market will be the first to rebound in the travel and tourism sector. Even before Covid-19 became a full-blown health crisis, the DOT had already prepared a domestic tourism program to help cushion the disease’s impact on the local tourism sector.

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