Stringent rules for staycations in GCQ areas draw flak from Philippine hoteliers

Philippine hoteliers are baulking at the stringent staycation guidelines for properties located in metro Manila and other destinations under general community quarantine (GCQ), including restricting accommodations to four- and five-star hotels, limiting guests to those residing within the destination, and mandatory antigen testing for all guests.

Chroma Hospitality country manager, James Montenegro, questioned the point of subjecting every family member living in one household to antigen testing.

Hotels in GCQ areas, including metro Manila, are now allowed to resume staycations, but not without adhering to strict health protocols; Makati, a city in the Philippines’ metro Manila region, pictured

He also pointed out that while families are required to take antigen tests in GCQ hotels, masses are allowed to roam freely without Covid testing in malls, where the transmission risk is higher, especially on weekends when thousands throng the malls.

Montenegro said four- and five-star hotels have strict implementation of health and hygiene protocols that are similar to those in hospitals.

While he welcomed the authorities’ move to allow the resumption of staycations in GCQ areas, Montenegro also saw the need “to strike a balance” between public health measures and economic recovery, noting that hotels have been closed for at least six months now.

Cyndy Tan Jarabata, president of Tajara Leisure and Hospitality Group, and co-organiser of the Hotel Owners for Tomorrow, an action group made up of independent and MSME hotel owners and operators, agreed that certain staycation restrictions “don’t make sense to hotel owners, much less staycationers”.

Noting how families make up a key segment for the staycation market, she cited the example of how the costs of antigen tests for a family of four booking a staycation may amount to the same as the promotional room rate, deterring domestic travellers from taking staycations. Another problem, she added, is the limitation on the number of occupants, based on the room size.

“It’s too much hassle for a staycation in the city where we have been stuck since March. The domestic market would prefer to have some breathing space outside of the metro,” Jarabata explained.

As per other staycation requirements laid down by the Department of Tourism, all accommodation establishments in GCQ areas must also first secure a DoT Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycations before accommodating any guests for a staycation. They are also required to have contactless booking and payment systems in place.

As well, the maximum number of guests allowed per room will be determined by the floor area – for example, a 49m2 room will be allowed to house a maximum of four guests. Accommodations which were previously used as quarantine or isolation facilities or had Covid-19 positive guests are also required to present a proof of sanitation and disinfection of their facilities.

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