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Wanderlust | Mindanao islands prepare for tourism in the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic halted all tourism activities in the country as government locked down destinations and ceased operations of all forms of transportation since March. This resulted to sudden drop of visitor arrivals in what would have been a peak season for tourists especially to the country’s island destinations.

As most parts of the country has now shifted to Modified General Community Quarantine, Mindanao’s tourism destinations are now engaged in conforming to the rules of the new normal.

In Camiguin, the province has formed a team, composed of representatives from the provincial tourism and health offices, municipalities, Department of Tourism and Department of Trade and Industries, currently inspecting the island’s around 200 tourism-related establishments.

“We are making sure that everything’s in place, following minimum health standards imposed by DOH and the new normal health and safety guidelines governing operations of island and beach destinations set by DOT,” said provincial tourism officer Candice Borromeo-Dael.

The province, known for its volcanoes, rich history and pristine beaches, is also firming up protocols for pre-arrival and arrival areas, transportation, accommodation, restaurants, and handling and reporting of cases in accordance to national and local issuances.

“We are working on contactless registration of guests at all our entry points in coordination with Safe Pass, an incident management and space planning platform for destinations and enterprises,” revealed Dael.

Moreover, the province is about to roll out a highly targeted campaign focused on specific markets that they deem see fit for the island.

“Now, more than ever, sustainable tourism will be a key message, add a caring community that awaits travelers when we finally reopen our doors,” she added.

Meanwhile, the province of Dinagat Islands in Caraga Region continue to strengthen their Conservation Program as they await the reopening of the islands to tourists.

“We are still exercising prevention protocols against COVID-19 especially that we are one of the few provinces without any confirmed cases of local transmission,” said provincial information officer Jeff Crisostomo.

While the province looks forward for the return of tourism activities, it is still focusing on health and safety along with their initiatives to mitigate the pandemic’s social and economic impact. With the MGCQ, only inter-municipality travel is allowed in the province.

On the other hand, Isabela City in Basilan, the administrative capital and commercial hub of Basilan Province, is partnering with the private sector for the upkeep of its tourism sites and facilities.

“At present, Malamawi Island is undergoing repairs and upgrades of its facilities under a new management. Lampinigan Island, Marang Marang Mangrove Cruise and Isabela City Forest Park are rehabilitating naturally as we have closed this area during quarantine. The forest park, a nursery area for tree and fruit seedlings, is now being cultivated by the City Agriculturist’s Office for food security,” shared tourism officer Claude Ramos.

The tourism office is currently doing sustained digital marketing promotions of its tourist spots and attractions. In spite of quarantine, they were able to successfully celebrate Sakayan Festival 2020 and Ramadan’s Eid Kasalamatan 2020 on their digital platforms.

“We are happy with the support we got from our online activities based on the turnaround of entries, response and Facebook analytics,” Ramos said.

The city is about to release a campaign entitled “Stay Home Today, Travel Tomorrow” featuring Isabela’s tourist spots and “Pinas Muna”.

“Our goal is to advance excitement and look forward to the things Isabeleños and Basileños can do once the pandemic is over,” he added.

There is no exact timeline as to when Isabela will reopen itself to leisure visitors but Ramos said tourism is still one of the core targets of Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin Hataman.

“We rely on the holistic prevention, preparation and coordination in battling the virus before we open tourism but our endeavors in various strategic marketing and promotions measures to advance the city continues,” quipped Ramos

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