THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has urged local government units (LGUs) to simplify the requirements needed by tourists to enter their leisure destinations.

The appeal was made after the agency received numerous complaints from would-be tourists to Boracay Island with regard to the non-release of their individual QR codes. The web portal on which Boracay visitors upload their documents and fill out their online health declaration card is handled by the Aklan LGU.

A kiteboarder and frequent visitor to Boracay who requested anonymity, posted on Facebook, “Hundreds of people complaining on FB that they are not getting their QR Codes on time. THEY MISSED NA their flights!! Even [a resort manager]  said she has confirmed guests who couldn’t make it cause super late ang QR Code. I sent my application 30 hours ago and NOTHING. No one answers the cellphone, land line or email follow ups. People are calling Boracay a HELLISH place to go because of this problem! And suggesting not to go nalang and choose other destinations na.”

Even BusinessMirror’s own Lorenz Marasigan was panicky on Saturday as he was leaving for Boracay at 10 a.m. the next day but had yet to receive his QR code. He reported, “No one was answering the mobile numbers provided [by the Aklan tourism web site]. Sometimes someone would answer then put the phone down, and it would become busy. Finally, I managed to actually speak to someone around 8 pm. I said I’d wait by the phone until they released the QR code. They eventually did.”

On Facebook, Dhel Supetran of the Caticlan Jetty Port and Passenger revealed that they were processing more than QR code requests for over 10,000 passengers as of November 16.

‘Challenging yes, but it’s LGU’s requirement’

In a news statement on Wednesday, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said, “We’re concerned about the numerous complaints related to the delayed processing of visitors’ requirements, leading to missed flights and disrupted travel schedules, particularly from leisure travelers applying for entry to the municipality of Malay, which includes Boracay.” Airlines will not allow passengers to board their flights to Caticlan unless they present their Aklan-issued QR codes.

This is the second time the DOT has had to intervene in travel problems  concerning Boracay, correcting the misimpression created by the Aklan LGU’s earlier executive order, which implied that children were not allowed to travel to Boracay. (See, “Aklan bans unvaxxed teenagers from Boracay,” in the BusinessMirror, Nov. 15, 2021.) Starting November 16, the province started accepting vaccination cards and official vaccination certificates as travel documents instead of requiring RT-PCR tests.

The DOT chief also emphasized that the processing of travel requirements for the entry of domestic tourists falls under the jurisdiction of the LGUs, not the DOT. “We’ve reached out to the concerned LGU and reiterated our position and appeal to streamline and simplify the travel requirements for visitors—a vital component in ensuring the recovery of the island’s tourism industry and workforce that have been severely affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“While we understand the challenges and restrictions that hamper the LGUs, we note the importance of timely facilitation of such requests imposed on the visitors by the LGUs themselves,” Romulo Puyat stressed.

“We appeal to all LGUs to ensure that requirements for travelers are streamlined and simplified. After all, the pace at which the industry can bounce back from its losses will be largely determined by the policies that will be implemented by the national and local government, and the participation and cooperation of its tourism stakeholders and the traveling public,” she said.

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