The Department of Tourism (DOT), through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), will provide a total of P8 million to the provincial government of Aklan to cover the cost of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for the island’s 4,000 tourism workers, as it expects more local tourist arrivals in the coming months.

“By supporting RT-PCR testing among workers in Boracay, the Department reiterates that safety is the unparalleled priority in reopening domestic tourism,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

The DOT and the TPB have undertaken similar efforts to ensure safety in other tourism destinations around the country like Baguio City, which has also reopened its doors to tourists from the Ilocos Region provinces since October 1 through the Ridge and Reef Travel Corridor Plan.

Working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH), the DOT allocated a P1.8 million budget from the TPB’s Special Contingency Fund, to support the adoption of antigen testing among Baguio City visitors, in addition to the usual reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

Results of both testing methods among visitors of the country’s summer capital will help determine the effectiveness of antigen tests as a quicker and cheaper means of detecting the dreaded novel coronavirus disease.

Puyat previously said she is hoping for the success of the pilot run of the antigen testing in Baguio so it can be an alternative to the costly RT-PCR testing, which is now a main requirement for domestic travel.

Through the TPB, the DOT also funded Baguio’s first ever Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VIS.I.T.A.) visitor management system that will allow for real-time tracking and contact tracing among tourists from Region 1.

Puyat said the remaining projects of the TPB for the year 2020 will focus on improving tourism destinations in terms of readiness with health and safety protocols, which in turn will increase confidence among local travelers.

“All of these efforts by the DOT, our attached agencies, together with our partners in the public and private sector, support the President’s directive to boost the country’s domestic tourism,” Puyat said.

Puyat is hopeful that by reviving tourism with health and safety measures in place, the tourism industry will make it through the pandemic and be a strong catalyst for the country’s economic recovery and growth.