Staycations, socials, MICE now allowed under AL 3

HOTELIERS and events organizers welcomed the lifting of restrictions as government decided to put the National Capital Region (NCR) under Alert Level (AL)  3 status starting October 16.

Under AL 3, staycations in NCR hotels are now allowed for vaccinated guests, as well as limited social gatherings and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) events.

In a news statement, Philippine Hotel Owners Association Executive Director Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said, “We are optimistic that the relaxed alert level in the NCR will result in greater demand among hotel guests and boost the establishment revenues in the last quarter of 2021.”

He added: “PHOA hopes the government will continue implementing measures that will balance the health and economy in the country. This will pave the way for a sustained economic recovery, not only in the hotel industry, but also in other business sectors.”

For his part, Joel Pascual, president of the Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers Inc. (Paceos) told the BusinessMirror, “We have always to just reopen and prove that as event professionals, we can do MICE safely.”

He added, “This development allows us to finally move forward in our quest to rebuilding confidence in the industry and furthers our hope that a strong rebound is just around the corner.”

Independent estimates by MICE organizers and event operators indicated revenue losses of at least 70 percent since 2019. Unlike other tourism sectors, MICE events and venue operators had not been able to operate since the start of March 2020, when government put the entire country under its first lockdown.

‘Unvaxxed staycation guests need Covid test’

IN a news statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said, “The resumption of tourism-related activities in select areas will not only aid hotels and establishments in gradually earning revenue, but will also translate into the restoration of jobs for our displaced tourism workers, especially now that the holiday season is fast approaching.”

Under new guidelines on the AL system of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), hotels certified by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to offer staycations and have been issued a Safety Seal by the government, are now allowed to book staycation guests of up to 100 percent of their capacity.

While staycations are allowed for vaccinated guests, other members of their household who may be unvaccinated will have to present a negative RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours before checking in the hotel. The DOT has certified 30 staycation hotels in Metro Manila, the list of which may be found at the agency’s web site and social-media pages.

“This is also very timely, knowing that the holiday season is fast approaching. Family gatherings are part of the Filipino culture, which makes this an important period for leisure travels and bookings,” underscored the DOT chief.

Additional dining capacities

The IATF likewise allowed MICE venues; permitted venues for social events such as parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, etc.; tourist attractions such as museums, galleries, parks, plazas, and the like; as well as amusement parks or theme parks, “to operate or be undertaken at a maximum of 30-percent indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only, and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity.”

However, the IATF required workers in these venues to be “fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and MPHS [minimum public health and safety protocols] shall be strictly maintained.” But the local government, where these establishments are located, has a say on whether to allow these activities to take place.

Earlier, the IATF also allowed the operation of restaurants at limited capacities for indoor and outdoor dining. Starting October 16, these may now operate with an additional 20-percentage points capacity, and another 10-percentage points if they have been granted a Safety Seal by government. As such, restaurants are now allowed to serve guests up to 50 percent of their indoor dining capacity if they have a Safety Seal, and 60 percent of seating capacity if they have a Safety Seal, for al fresco dining.