By Ryan Sorote

Once the country’s Covid-19 hotspot, the province of Cebu is preparing to reopen its tourism industry.

The tourism revival plan started as early as June 29, 2020 when Gov. Gwen Garcia released Executive Order 20-A, which sought to prepare the province to reopen to tourists.

Garcia said the capitol collaborated with tourism stakeholders to ensure a safe reopening of the tourism sector as local government units battled Covid-19 surges and started vaccinations.

EO 20-A requires the strict implementation of health protocols in tourist sites.  

Some tourism-related activities and facilities have been reopened to local tourists — canyoneering, island hopping, snorkeling, among others — to allow tourism workers to make a living, the governor explained.

As Covid-19 cases increased in Cebu in mid-2020, retired general Melquiades Feliciano was sent to Cebu as Visayas Covid-19 task force chief implementer.

Feliciano led in setting up the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Cebu City, the first of its kind in the Visayas, to oversee and analyze Covid-19 responses and data.

An EOC operations manual was later developed and cascaded to all local government units (LGUs) in Cebu and the Visayas to prevent closures, restrictions, and lockdowns.

Garcia said LGUs were confident of reopening tourism activities with Cebu, citing a key indicator: the 30-percent capacity utilization rate of over 800 Covid-19 and ICU beds in the province.

Shalimar Hofer Tamano, Department of Tourism Central Visayas director, said the partnership of different government agencies and LGUs helped in efforts to revive tourism amid the pandemic.

Tamano hopes the province will again attract millions of local and foreign tourists and serve as a model for other LGUs to revive their own tourism industries.

In 2019, Cebu drew 4.3 million tourists, he said.