Guidelines in place to ensure health & safety of staycationers

In operating under the new normal, establishments need to implement health and safety protocols to protect their clients as well as employees from contracting the COVID-19 virus. The hotel sector is no exception to this.

This is why the Department of Tourism (DOT) recently came up with guidelines for the operation of staycations in General Community Quarantine(GCQ) areas through DOT Administrative Order 2020-006-A.

Under the guidelines, all accommodation establishments in areas declared under GCQ must secure a DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycations (CAOS) before accommodating guests.

Among the establishments eligible to accommodate guests for staycations are those that are not concurrently being used as quarantine or isolation facilities for repatriated OFWs or returning overseas Filipinos or as quarters for health workers.

“If the accommodation establishment was previously utilized for these purposes or has previously accommodated guests who are COVID-19 positive, proof of sanitation and disinfection shall be submitted to the regional office concerned,” the DOT said.

The proof may be in the form of logs, records, certification, or any other sufficient documentation by the accommodation establishment’s in-house sanitation personnel or by outsourced third-party cleaners.

Other eligible accommodation establishments include those that have been granted a four- or five-star rating.

The DOT said guests of all ages will be accepted for a staycation, except those with underlying medical conditions or are pregnant.

To further ensure guests’ health and safety, the guidelines stress that staycation guests shall be required to present a negative test result from a Rapid Antigen Test conducted on the same day of check-in.

Meanwhile, the DOT emphasized that accommodation establishments must follow guidelines on guest handling, including the maximum number of guests per room, as well as health and safety standards for ancillary establishments. They may also resume operations of ancillary facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, restaurants and other food and beverage outlets, except for bars, which remain prohibited in GCQ areas.

Under the guidelines, only one or two persons from the same household will be allowed to stay in a 20 sqm room; 21 sqm rooms can accommodate two persons; 30 to 39 sqm rooms can accommodate three persons; 40 to 49 sqm rooms can accommodate four persons, and 50 sqm and above rooms can accommodate a maximum of five persons.

“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 (LGU) tourism office for data analysis purposes,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

Moreover, the guidelines also call for the development of staycation packages that are appropriate for the present market demands and conditions by hotel associations, DOT-accredited accommodation establishments, travel agencies, and tour operators.

“The staycation packages shall strictly adhere to the existing health and safety guidelines of the DOT and shall be submitted to the DOT Regional Office concerned for monitoring purposes,” the DOT said.

The guidelines also stress that contactless and cashless transactions for taking bookings and payments are mandatory.

Establishments must also adhere to other issuances on health and safety standards from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or Department of Health (DOH), and rules and regulations imposed by the LGU concerned.

“Violators shall suffer appropriate fines and fees, including revocation of DOT accreditation,” Puyat said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved earlier the DOT’s recommendation to explore various ways of restarting tourism activities during quarantine, which includes staycations in GCQ areas.

As staycation and select forms of leisure are now allowed in areas under GCQ and MGCQ, establishments are asked to adhere to health and safety standards from the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Health (DOH) as well as rules and regulations imposed by the LGUs.

“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 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,” Puyat said. 

The tourism sector is a key driver of the country’s economy, contributing 12.7 percent to the country’s gross domestic product in 2019 and a 13.5-percent contribution to the total employment with 5.7 million employed in the sector.