I clearly remember how relaxed I was last year when I checked in for my flight to Butuan City. It was an early morning flight in March and I was brave enough not to wear a face mask at a height when news of COVID19 hitting the country. I brazenly walked the halls of T3 without a mask. I only felt the need to wear a mask after seeing a fellow passenger boarding the same flight and she was carrying two crisp Japan Airline Duty Free Bags. I remember thinking… “shoot, may balikbayan from Japan at baka may dala (virus)”. Who would have thought that it was the start of a grueling year that changed the world?
The COVID19 pandemic changed the landscape of our lives. It managed to stop the world and keep us all inside our homes. In doing so, a lot of travelers, like me, were all confined in our corners daydreaming about our cancelled trips and planning future ones. Experts say that it will take us years before we can go back to the pre-pandemic normal that we once got used to. It is safe to say then that the health crisis has and will change the way we travel and how we travel.
Here are some of the major changes that we can expect now that we are slowly reviving our tourism industry.
> > > Research on your destination and its local health protocols. < < <
Research is one of the skills that seasoned travelers are very good at so this part of traveling will come very easy. The way we do our research will have to expand to include local health protocols of your destination. It would be a walk in the park if you are going to just one destination but can be quite tricky if you are planning to go on a multi-destination trip. At this point, local government protocols vary from
one destination to another.
Things to check are requirements on COVID19 test, health certificate, quarantine procedures, accommodation and itinerary, and the procedures when you arrive at the destination. This will help you save on time and money once you have these additional details with you. This can help you plan out your trip better in terms of time and additional expenses.
Planning your trips is not just about researching where to go, where to eat, and what to do. Knowing the health protocols of your local destination is THE most important part of the preparations. You can check out the social media pages of your destination or our local airlines’ website for an updated list of requirements. Remember that these protocols can spell out a great vacation time for you or wasting time on quarantine.
> > > COVID19 Testing is going to be a travel requirement. < < <
Get your nose ready for the nasal swab for that COVID19 test before taking a trip. This test is going to be staple in the coming years whenever we travel. Again, different LGUs have different approaches with some asking for RTPCR tests while others are okay with Antigen testing. You would have to include this additional cost in your travel budget although there are some government agencies that offer discounted rates for local tourists.
Based from my experience, RTPCR tests are more expensive based on the schedule that you need the results. Antigen is more cost and time efficient because you get the results within the hour at a lower rate. Again, you would need to check with the LGU regarding their testing requirement because you don’t want to spend on a test that they won’t consider and acknowledge. If nasal swabs are not your thing, the Philippine Red Cross offers saliva tests which some LGUs acknowledge upon entry. The swabs take a little time to get used to but, if you are a frequent traveler, you will get accustomed to it in no time. Hahahaha! And yes, please do not be a selfish a-hole by fabricating your COVID test results. Don’t put the lives of locals at risk. This kind of action smells of cheap desperation.
> > > Register on the LGU’s Contact Tracing / Visitor Registration App < < <
I have seen different local governments launching their own contact tracing apps and, most of the time, they also require visitors to register for easier monitoring. Some of these apps serve as digital repositories of your travel documents, monitoring your entry and exit from your destination, and can also function as a contract tracing mechanism as you go around exploring. They also have updates on travel requirements so this apps or online links can be useful to local travelers even before embarking on the trip.
It is also important that we take contact tracing mechanisms seriously for our safety and the locals that we interact with during the trip. I also recommend that you have your own personal log of where you have been and who you interacted with during the day. These simple mechanisms of recording can significantly help in controlling the spread of the virus in the event of an infection. Let us be responsible travelers by proactively recording these details.
> > > Alcohol, Facemasks, and Face shields are not part of travel necessities. < < <
Apart from your OOTDs, personal accessories, and mobile phones and gadgets, these three will now form part of our travel necessities. We all know that self-discipline on personal hygiene is very important in keeping you safe from COVID19. I guess most of us may have gotten used to it already and have already created hygiene behaviors around it. What is important is that you need to pack extras for the duration of your trip. If you can bring a little more to share with the locals that would be very much appreciated.
Apart from these new travel necessities, keeping your distance when interacting with locals and fellow travelers is also a major shift in our travel behaviors. We always need to keep in mind that we might be carrying the virus so keeping our distance is our way of showing that we care and respect the people around us. These may be hard in a certain set-ups but it is best that we enjoy each other’s company with the distance. One would probably argue that you had a negative test when you arrived. That is true but what you don’t want to happen is to bring the virus home with you. If you can’t help it, keep your mask on.
> > > Get vaccinated. < < <
The best way to beat COVID19 and help us get back to the old normal is to get vaccinated. There is no known cure yet on COVID19 and our best armor against it is to get inoculated. Vaccines, whatever brand it may be, have been proven to prevent the severe cases of COVID and death. This is our best protection especially for us travelers who love to wander around where we get to interact with different people, be it locals or fellow tourists.
A lot of countries are opening their doors to tourists who are already fully vaccinated. It is the safest way that they can protect their people and keep their tourism industry afloat. I hope that we can also do the same here in the Philippines and, more importantly, I pray that you would do your part of protecting yourself and the people around you by getting vaccinated against COVID when you get to your turn. This patriotic act will save your life and will keep you safe as you go around exploring the Philippines.
We can expect these changes to stay for quite a while and there is also a huge chance that additional protocols be imposed as time goes by. As much as we hope for a uniform approach on tourism protocols, there are a lot of variations and it is best to first check with the LGU of your destination. What is very important is for travelers to respect and abide by these protocols. Please do not be a pain in the as* and act boastfully as if your presence in the area is a right. Remember that you are just a guest in their place. Also, responsible travelers do not take shortcuts especially on tests. We don’t put other people’s lives in danger.
Beating COVID19 is easy if we take on the responsibility of having the right disciplines inside and outside our homes. We need to develop the behaviors needed to lessen our chances of getting and passing on the virus. All these changes involve self-discipline and that plays a huge part in the bigger picture in controlling this pandemic. Entitlement does not have a part in this crisis and your cooperation and discipline will determine how fast we can go back to our usual way of traveling.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.