While public opinion is still divided on the merits of travel at this time, the tourism industry’s stance is pretty clear: the economy needs you to get on a plane and see the country. That’s what we did on our trip with AirAsia, which has teamed up with the Hotel Resort & Restaurant Association of Cebu, Inc. as its official airline partner. Their objective? To promote safe domestic travel in Cebu, which has always been a vibrant hub in the Central Visayas region and an attractive destination to locals and tourists alike.
Not gonna lie, I felt like a jerk as I judiciously avoided eating with my newfound travel buddies — friends from AirAsia and fellow media personalities — on the first few days of our trip. Re-entry anxiety is real and it has consumed me for quite some time now. Still, before the pandemic it was travel that made me feel alive. The thought of getting on a plane again was electrifying. I figured, after over a year of feeling afraid, then numb, then afraid again, it would be good to rejoin the world of the living for a little while. So, after manifesting my favorite AirAsia Santan meal (Chicken Inasal), I promptly packed my bags and hoped for the best.
In Cebu, the living are kickin’. It was refreshing to see people out and about taking staycations. I remember reading that word for the first time in the early 2000s (the earliest use of the term was in 1944 according to Merriam-Webster) thinking, “What a strange concept.” Why would I ever want to leave my room, only to stay in another room that has none of my things in it? And then I started, as they say, adulting and grew to appreciate the value of housekeeping, room service, and buffet breakfasts. The idea of waking up to coffee, a selection of fresh breads, and already-sliced papaya has become so enticing to me.
Bai the Way
This was what I looked forward to most — and enjoyed most — during this trip. My four-night stay at Bai Hotel in Mandaue City was beyond blissful. They hooked me up with a suite that had a grand view of the city and the hotel’s rooftop pool. In the late afternoons after a long day of presscons and interviews, I would sit by the window with a cup of tea, watching people swim and be…normal. At the risk of sounding like a creep, this was the perfect vision of calm.
Did I mention they offer buffet breakfast on weekends? Pre-pandemic, that moment when I’m sitting alone in a hotel restaurant, waiting for my eggs and coffee, completely still in body and mind as people around me whizzed by, was always a grounding experience. How surreal it was to be in that moment again. But even more surreal was how everybody seemed to be used to it.
According to the Bai Hotel’s general manager and HRRACI vice-president for operations Alfred Reyes, Cebu has been open for domestic tourism since November of 2020, and staycations have been every hotel’s bread and butter since. Bai Hotel, in particular, despite being understaffed, operates at near-full capacity on weekends, which is when locals usually book their stay. He shares that it’s the same case for other hotels in Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City. With the partnership with AirAsia, HRRACI is hoping to add visitors from NCR to these increasing numbers.
The struggle at this point is getting people to spend money on vacations, according to Atty. Joy Pesquera, Cebu City Tourism Commission chairperson. To address this, AirAsia’s partnership with Cebu’s hotels and resorts will provide incentives for travelers who book with the airline. An example of which is a-Access, an incentive card for both AirAsia and non-AirAsia guests, granting access to exclusive offers from a wide selection of partner establishments across key destinations in the country, including Cebu.
Requirements for Entry
Cebu has the same travel requirements as other provinces in MGCQ from tourists from NCR Plus. This includes a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure, roundtrip flight tickets, a confirmed booking at an accredited hotel (all HRRACI hotels are accredited for staycation), and an S-Pass Travel Coordination Permit for those who will be going to Cebu City, which is a restricted area. To check if the area you are visiting will require an S-Pass, visit https://s-pass.ph.
At NAIA Terminal 3, which is where AirAsia flights depart from, you’ll need to scan a contract tracing QR code with your Traze App before checking in. At the counters, present your documents and check in as usual. The same procedure applies when flying from Mactan International Airport.
The Department of Tourism through the Tourism Promotions Board has resumed its offer of 50% RT-PCR test subsidy for qualified tourists, in an effort to bring the tourism industry back on its feet. This offer has been extended until December 2021. To apply for RT-PCR test subsidy, visit https://www.tpb.gov.ph/rtpcrphtravel-application/.
Be Safe, Travel Responsibly
As Atty. Pesquera mentioned in a press conference at Quest Hotel during our trip, at this point, we’re all operating on an honor system and just trusting that everyone is being upfront about the status of their tests, health, and vaccination. It’s then up to us, individually, to be diligent about observing minimum health protocols to protect ourselves and those around us.
My own anxieties weren’t eased after getting my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As those who subscribe to legitimate sources of information would know, it’s not a magic jab that will make your worries disappear, nor will it give you 100% protection. The fear and the virus still exist — but living in a world where travel does not is such a bleak prospect, and so we try. For now, our local destinations need us. If you can afford to, go on and give travel a shot.
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AirAsia flies twice daily from Manila to Cebu. Check updated flight schedules and book through the AirAsia Super App or airasia.com.